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If the US presidential election abolishes the electoral college, would this mean that extremist voters (someone who fanatically supports a specific political direction and will vote whoever supports it the most) play more of a role in the election?

I assume that under the existing system, the focus is on swing states, which contain moderate voters, which means convincing moderate supporters of one candidate to vote for the other candidate instead, or convincing moderate supporters of one candidate to get out and vote for them, or convincing moderate supporters of the opposing candidate to stay at home on election day.

By contrast, I assume that if the vote is nation-wide, then candidates may be trying to convince extremist voters to vote for their candidate, rather than sitting it out because the candidate is too moderate, or voting for a minor party candidate instead.

However, this is an assumption. Is there any data indicating that abolishing the electoral college would cause extremist voters to play more of a role in the election?

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    I think there's some unfounded assumptions here. For starters a swing state isn't necessarily any indication as to how moderate vs extreme the voters are. It just means there are close to equal amounts of people that would vote for opposing candidates. – user1530 Mar 18 '17 at 1:47
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    Secondly, in a pure popular vote, the goal is to be...most popular with the greatest number of voters. That typically requires leaning a bit towards the center. – user1530 Mar 18 '17 at 1:49
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    I think the scope of this question needs to be narrowed a little bit. With what election system would you replace the electoral college? – Avi Mar 19 '17 at 0:08
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    @Avi A nation-wide vote (ie the popular vote). – Andrew Grimm Mar 19 '17 at 3:05
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    @AndrewGrimm Again though, a nation-wide vote with what election system? – Avi Mar 19 '17 at 14:52
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To an extent, it is possible; but only assuming that you also get rid of per-state primaries and make primaries popular vote by entire country (which is, in practical sense, impossible, since primary mechanics are determined by individual parties and not by law).

There's no conclusive proof, but you can see this play out in direct-election congressional elections: they are far more polarized than Presidential elections; due to the fact that insufficiently-polarized candidates frequently get primaried by less-moderate candidates in the primary (and the latter often win the primary).

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  • "since primary mechanics are determined by individual parties and not by law" That's not entirely true. There are certain rules that are set outside the parties. In particular, the very idea that party nominees get an automatic place on the fall ballot is based on law. Also, most states set their primary dates by law. For example, New Hampshire's law requires that it be the first primary. And state by state primaries make it easier for radical candidates. By winning early primaries, they look less radical. Look at how radical Ted Cruz muscled out the establishment Marco Rubio. Or Trump – Brythan Mar 20 '17 at 2:27
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I'm not sure why your question got so many downvotes because it is a legitimate one. The short answer is no - abolishing the electoral college would not significantly change the electoral impact that 'fringe' voters would have on the outcome of an election.

This is for two reasons. First, swing states are determined by whether or not there are roughly equal numbers of Democratic or Republican base voters in each state. By base voters, I mean people who always vote for their party's candidate.

Second, the electoral college was set up to weed out 'unacceptable' candidates not by dividing fringe voters in different states per se but by giving the electors the power to elect the candidate who lost the popular vote in the event that the more popular candidate turned out to be unacceptable for whatever reason. This is particularly ironic after the 2016 election(!!!!!)

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