[Marxism] Nader the Condorcet Winner in 2000

Yoshie Furuhashi furuhashi.1 at osu.edu
Sat Mar 27 12:16:50 MST 2004

The virtue of the Condorcet method is its ability to eliminate the 
pressure on voters to vote to defeat the least desirable candidate 
rather than reveal their true preferences, by allowing voters to rank 
the candidates (like Instant Runoff Voting) and by refusing to 
eliminate the candidate with the least first choices (unlike Instant 
Runoff Voting).

That Ralph Nader turned out to be the Condorcet Winner in 2000 shows 
how unusual the 2000 election was, according to Bruce C. Burden:

*****   Two common methods are majority and plurality rule.  Majority 
rule would have failed in 2000 because no candidate won 50% of the 
popular vote.  And plurality rule would have elected Gore as he 
clearly won the popular vote.  And neither majority nor plurality 
rule is more natural than or superior to more complicated methods. . 
. . [T]he Founders chose to create the Electoral College to choose 
presidents. Bush won the 2000 election because he won a majority of 
electoral votes, after a serious of legal battles in Florida held him 
over the 270 required for victory.  One might wonder whether this 
rather unique method of election selected the same winner that other 
aggregation schemes might or whether Bush's victory was idiosyncratic 
to the particular set of institutions and events that put him into 

One of the most stringent methods of selecting a candidate was 
proposed by the Marquis de Condorcet more than 200 years ago.  The 
Condorcet criterion is a desirable method of choosing among multiple 
candidates because it sets the threshold of victory high.  Condorcet 
argued that a winning alternative ought to be capable of defeating 
all other alternative in head-to-head comparisons.  That is, A should 
be the victor only if she beats both B and C in paired situations. . 
. .

National Election Study data from 2000 make it possible to conduct a 
crude analysis of strategic voting.  I follow a long line of research 
that uses rankings of the candidates on the traditional "feeling 
thermometers" as estimates of the relative ordinal utilities each 
person has for each candidate.  Thermometers are reasonable proxies 
for respondents' utilities for the candidates and predict the vote 
well (Abramson et al. 1992, 1995, 2000; Brams and Fishburn 1983; 
Brams and Merrill 1994; Kiewiet 1979; Ordeshook and Zeng 1997; 
Palfrey and Poole 1987; Weisberg and Grofman 1981).  Abramson and 
colleagues (1995) show that the winners of the popular and electoral 
vote in three notable third party elections -- 1968, 1980, and 1992 
-- were all Condorcet winners.  That is, the Electoral College victor 
also would have won using Condorcet's standard of beating each of the 
other candidates in head-to-head comparisons.  Using their approach, 
I have verified that Clinton was easily the Condorcet winner in 1996 
as well.

It is reassuring that different voting schemes -- simple plurality 
rule, the Electoral College, the Condorcet criterion, and perhaps 
even approval voting -- all select the same candidate in each of the 
last four elections with significant minor parties (Brams and 
Fishburn 1983; Brams and Merrill 1994; Kiewiet 1979).  Indeed, it is 
remarkable that every presidential election for which adequate survey 
data exist seems to have chosen the Condorcet winner, regardless of 
minor party showings.  This is satisfying in part because no voting 
method is ideal and the Condorcet method appears to be one of the 
most stringent as a Condorcet winner does not even exist in many 

The 2000 election is not so tidy.  Not only did George W. Bush not 
take the popular vote, but the data clearly show that he was not the 
Condorcet winner either.  This is apparently the first time in the 
survey era that this has happened.  Moreover, it is quite possible 
that the winner of the popular vote -- Al Gore -- was also not the 
Condorcet winner.  Examining the pre-election rankings, Nader beats 
Buchanan (659-240), Gore (527-500), and Bush (562-491), thus making 
him the Condorcet winner.3  Nearly every other method makes Gore the 
winner.  Running through the list of voting methods that are commonly 
discussed in textbooks on the subject (e.g., Shepsle and Bonchek 
1997), Gore wins whether using a plurality runoff, sequential runoff, 
Borda count, or approval voting.4  The 2000 election thus represents 
a highly unusual event in modern U.S. politics as the Electoral 
College and ensuing legal battles surrounding Florida are perhaps the 
only method that would result in George W. Bush's election.

("Minor Parties in the 2000 Presidential Election," 2-3, 

The main points of Burden's essay is (1) that George W. Bush could 
_not_ have won the election by _any_ voting method -- he won only 
because of the Supreme Court's intervention and Al Gore's 
acquiescence to it; (2) "Bush not only lost the popular vote but was 
nearly the Condocet _loser _in head-to-head pairings with each of 
other candidates" (Burden, 10); (3) _before 2000_, all actual 
presidential election winners were also Condorcet winners (i.e., 
candidates with broad appeal, preferable to the other major and minor 
party candidates from the points of view of many of the voters who 
did not make them their first choices) in the elections for which 
adequate survey data are available, but _in 2000_ neither Gore nor 
Bush was the Condorcet winner, an exceptional outcome in modern US 
history; and (4) Nader turned out to be the Condorcet winner, 
_despite_ the fact that Nader (unlike Ross Perot) was not a centrist 
candidate who attracted centrist voters who prefer compromise 
candidates and that actual "Nader voters were more liberal, 
pro-choice, and educated than other voters on average" and chose 
Nader over Gore because they were "discontent with the economy" 
(Burden, 1-2, 14) -- "For a voter who is undecided between Gore and 
Nader, viewing the current economy as 'poor' rather than 'excellent' 
increases his probability of picking Nader from .50 to .79, a change 
of nearly 30 percentage points" (Burden, 13).

Comparison of actual votes and true preferences is important, as it 
suggests a potential Green Party strategy:

*****   Table 1 demonstrates this by comparing respondents' candidate 
rankings along with their vote choice and turnout decisions.  The 
data show that nearly all of those who rated Buchanan or Nader as 
their most preferred candidates voted for someone else.  Among 
voters, over 90% of people who rated Buchanan or Nader highest did 
not vote for them. . . .

Table 1: Candidate Rankings, Vote Choice, and Abstention

           Highest Ranked Candidate
           Bush  Gore  Nader  Buchanan

Bush      93.7   6.2  37.6    46.3
Gore       5.8  93.5  52.0    43.9
Nader       .5    .3   9.4     3.5
Buchanan     0     0     0     3.5
Other        0     0   1.0     2.7
Abstain   20.0  25.9  48.1    39.8

Notes: Ranking based on pre-election feeling thermometers as the 
post-election thermometers do not include Buchanan.  NES sample 
weight used. Ties are omitted.

(Burden, 3-4)   *****

The Green Party should think about what is to be done to motivate 
those who prefer Nader to actually get to the ballot boxes and vote 
for him, rather than think about what to say to win back those who 
actually voted for Nader but now regret their vote -- a tiny 
minority: "[A]pparently not many Nader voters regret their decisions. 
Only 1 in 10 Nader voters say they wish they could change their vote 
after knowing how close the election was" (Burden, 4).

* Bring Them Home Now! <http://www.bringthemhomenow.org/>
* Calendars of Events in Columbus: 
<http://www.freepress.org/calendar.php>, & <http://www.cpanews.org/>
* Student International Forum: <http://sif.org.ohio-state.edu/>
* Committee for Justice in Palestine: <http://www.osudivest.org/>
* Al-Awda-Ohio: <http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Al-Awda-Ohio>
* Solidarity: <http://www.solidarity-us.org/>

More information about the Marxism mailing list