Election history is worth studying if you want to understand a country. Political life is definitely full of ups and downs, but we are free enough to take them.
For me, the worst part of the pandemic – so far – has been U.S. politics on cable news. It may be years before I am able to remove Donald Trump from my head.
Anyway, I was thinking about election history in the U.S. and Canada. Being a retired management consultant, I made some graphs. Shown above are the election results for these two countries during my lifetime.
You can see in the top graph blue bars depicting Electoral College margin above 270 since 1952. The red line and dots show the popular vote margin enjoyed by the winning candidate over the nearest competitor. The first thing you notice is that most U.S. elections are resolved with pretty slim popular vote margins, under 5%.
Only Regan and Nixon (in their second terms) and LBJ had any sort of popular vote blowout. And, you will see, only one President (guess who) won with a negative popular vote margin.
Second, Electoral College margins have tightened over the years, which is why we hear so much about battleground states. But even so, I was surprised by how narrow victories were for many popular presidents, even JFK.
Election History in Canada
Here in Canada, our governments are driven more directly by popular votes. You probably know that in our system, the party with the most seats in Parliament forms the government. The lower graph shows Canadian popular vote in blue and seats in red, as a percentage.
Since we typically have three or more serious parties competing, we almost never see a government with fifty percent of the popular vote. If you get 40% you are doing well.
You will also see quite a few governments formed with less than 50% of the seats. That’s because we often have minority governments, where the leading party forms a coalition with one or more minority groups.
Both systems are representative as they are driven by constituencies, indirectly in the case of the Electoral College.