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Poll Indicates Public Supports Dismantling Electoral College

Aired December 18, 2000 - 4:07 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

JOIE CHEN, CNN ANCHOR: Election 2000 was one of those very rare occasions when the electoral college winner actually lost the popular vote. Perhaps not surprisingly, therefore, a lot of people in this country would like to see a change in the way the nation picks its president.

Gallup's Frank Newport joins us now with some numbers on that -- Frank.

FRANK NEWPORT, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, GALLUP POLL: Well, Joie, if the American people had their way, the kind of pictures we were just looking at there of the electors voting would become anachronism. They would go out of business, because the public clearly says, let's go to a popular vote system.

Let's show you the data. First of all, it's important to remind us that the American public is split about evenly in terms of where they come in on this election. You know, half voted for bush, half voted for Gore, generally speaking. A lot of our questions on the weekend poll were similar: When we said, for example, was the final election result fair or unfair? Spit: 51 percent say fair, but almost as many say unfair. That's because a lot of Gore people here think the system didn't work very well.

So we followed up and asked the question about how confident are you generally speaking in the way that the election process works, and it's not great numbers here. Look at this: Just about a third said they have quite a lot or a great deal of confidence in the election system; 32 percent have a lukewarm, tepid, I have some confidence. But look over here: 35 percent say they have very little confidence overall with the system.

So we followed up and said, all right, what kind of overhaul or reforms might be needed, and here the public comes through fairly strongly: 28 percent say a complete overhaul. We're not sure what that means generally speaking. But another 39 percent say major reform.

The point here is if you put these two together, you've got well over a majority of Americans saying we need at least major reforms in the way we elect a president. A very small number that says we don't need reforms altogether.

Then you come to the question actually we've been asking for 40 or 50 years. Gallup was asking this question, believe it or not, back in the 1940s: Do we need to junk the constitutionally mandated electoral college system? Yes, say the public, as I mentioned at the outset here. Just 37 percent say keep the constitutionally mandated electoral college system. The rest, 59 percent, say amend the Constitution, let's go to a popular vote system.

Overall, the public also, by the way, Joie, is in favor of federal control of the election system to take it out of local control.

That's where the public stands. Joie, back to you.

CHEN: All right, Frank, and we'll ask you to stand by. We're going to hear a little bit more from Frank Newport later in this hour.

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