Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Winning the White House (the easy way)

In a bid to create a more easily accessible list of my articles for the Significance website, I'm going to start updating this thing with links to them (maybe with some bonus content if there is anything I couldn't fit in).

It's (US) election day, so here's an article about how to win the Presidency with as small a share of the popular vote as possible. In the process of doing this, I tried a few other things that I didn't think quite made the cut.

After dealing with some trivial(ish) cases, I base my calculations in the article on turnout at the 2008 election. However, I thought I'd see what happens if I assume every member of the electorate voted. Unsurprisingly, not much changes: the minimum popular vote share required increases only a little to 22.3%.

I also looked at the analogous problem for becoming Prime Minister (assuming I had somehow persuaded a major political party to appoint me their leader). The maths is a lot more straightforward for the UK, as we just have one parliamentary seat per constituency (so none of this electoral college business). With 650 seats available, I'd simply have to win the 326 constituencies with the lowest turnout to form a (very) minority government. Admittedly, our politics are rather more complex than the two-party system stateside, but if we continue to assume 50% of the vote is required to win a constituency, then at the last general election a party could have won with just 22.1% of the national vote (the Liberal Democrats, by comparison, received 23%).