Did third party voting throw the election?

I have seen quite a few posts and comments on Facebook indicating that if Obama won this election (which he did), it would be the fault of all those people who chose to vote for neither Romney nor Obama, mostly the people who are believed to have otherwise voted for Romney.  Living in a swing state (Colorado) I have been entreated by several people to please not throw my vote away and be the reason Obama got another four years.  I have also been the recipient of very harsh words to that effect.

As soon as the election was called at about ten o’clock Mountain time last night, pro-life activist Abby Johnson wrote an angry post blaming third party voters for Romney’s loss, and I quickly saw several comments and other posts to that effect.  The election was so close, they claimed, that third party voters ruined it for everyone.

But did we?

Using this election map as my source, mainly because it accounts for all votes for “other,” not just votes for Gary Johnson, I made up a simple Excel spreadsheet where I recorded the votes for Obama, Romney and “Other” in all the states where Obama won.  Then I added the votes for “Other” to the votes for Romney, making the generous and faulty assumption that every single person in every single blue state who voted for “Other” would have voted for Romney instead.  Below is a screen shot of my table.

As you can see from the table, had every vote that went to “Other” instead been cast for Romney, Obama would have still won in all the blue states except for Florida, where the results were actually close enough that all “other” votes going to Romney would have swung Florida to Romney.  So the best case scenario is that instead of losing the election with 206 electoral votes to Obama’s 303 with the Florida votes still being unassigned (probably pending ballot hand counting), Romney would have instead lost the election with 235 electoral votes to Obama’s 303.

So no, votes cast for people other than Romney did not throw the election to Obama.  Rather than persisting in blaming people like me for voting for someone else, it would be more productive to consider other reasons for Obama’s victory.  I will leave that up to the pundits, other than to offer the most simple explanation, which is that the GOP and Romney supporters simply failed to convince the population who voted for Obama that Romney would do a better job as president than Obama will.

UPDATE:  According to my source map, Florida’s electoral votes have now been assigned to Obama, granting him the victory with 332 electoral votes with Romney getting 206.  Also, another observation which has been made is that in every single blue state except Florida, Obama won by over 50% of the vote.  That observation makes all my calculations extra work and confirms once again that third party voters were not the reason Obama won.

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14 Responses to Did third party voting throw the election?

  1. Pingback: Well that didn’t take long

  2. Sirrahc says:

    A few comments: 1) It’s a good point, though I’d be curious to see the same done for the Senators, Representatives, and Governors. 2) I also wonder how many people just didn’t vote that normally would have and which direction they lean. 3) There is a duplication error in the spreadsheet, as the Michigan and Ohio rows have the exact same vote counts.

    I maintain that voting 3rd-party, especially in national, general elections. But, there are a number of factors responsible for the outcome.

    • Fernanda says:

      Thanks for the comment and especially for pointing out the error. I fixed it :-)

      I don’t think there is any way to quantify the impact nonvoters would have had if they’d voted. Perhaps another good reason to vote anyway, and to vote your conscience, even if you know your vote won’t sway the election. You just never know when an obscure blogger might count it anyway :-)

  3. Kelly Markham says:

    Hey, Nanda.
    NO, the “other” votes would not have made a difference. Had it been closer… maybe.
    Who knows?
    The important thing is NOT whether one or the other candidate got elected, but that YOU, as a U. S. citizen, have a right to cast YOUR vote in YOUR way, for whomever YOU decide deserves it.
    End of story.
    I applaud you!

    • Fernanda says:

      I totally agree, Kelly. You would be amazed by how much blame of third party voters was being thrown around before the election and immediately after it was called for Obama. So I wanted to show that mathematically, we third party voters were not the reason Obama won.


  4. Pingback: Don’t Blame Third Parties Either | The American Conservative

  5. God bless America says:

    I totally disagree with you. Your assumption should entail a ceteris paribus clause. In the real world, our stances and decisions influence others – at least even just one more person out there. Had the third party voters been more nationalistic, like setting aside that Ron Paul obsession (in your case), they may have still influenced others who were more inclined to vote for Obama. And remember, “The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in times of great moral crisis, maintain their neutrality.” The very fact that you have spent time doing the research and computations signify that deep inside yourself, you carry a load of guilt – defense mechanism.

    • Fernanda says:

      While I’m sure flattered that you think I have such great influence, I really think the greater influence on voters’ attitudes here was the Republican candidate himself. He was simply not compelling as he did not adequately address the concerns of the Republican voting base, not to mention undecided and Democrat voters, and neither he, nor his campaign, nor all the people who were going to vote for him anyway because “no one is as evil as Obama” could persuade enough voters that he was worth voting for. Some other interesting statistics have been floating around the Internet more recently since I wrote this post. One of them is that Obama got 12 million fewer votes this election than last election. Another is that had the same number of people who voted for McCain in the last election voted for Romney in this election, Obama would have lost and Romney would have won. But fewer people voted for Romney than did for McCain. Why? Because they could not be persuaded that Romney was worth voting for. I do not think I could have changed their minds even if I had tried. I was not neutral in this at all. If you read my previous post about the election you would have seen that I was very involved in the political process starting with the precinct caucus in my state and going all the way up to the state GOP assembly. I got this involved for (among other things) the same reason a lot of people gave for voting for Romney despite him not being a strong candidate–I wanted to see Obama gone and I believed my candidate could beat him. When Romney took the nomination in Tampa through questionable means, many of us who were very involved figured it was over at that point and it turns out we were right. That does not make it our fault, though. The “research and computations” I did took very little time thanks to good computer software and other people who have put together websites compiling the election results. I voted my conscience, got called some horrible names for it, and even in the face of facts people like you would still like to blame me and others like me for Obama’s victory. Be my guest if you insist, but I think it’s a waste of energy and it won’t get the GOP any closer to winning future presidential elections. I feel no guilt whatsoever for my voting decision, though I do carry some sadness for what will never be.

  6. Tim says:

    Brilliant column, Fernanda and brilliant rebuttals as well. I have always been swayed by Republicans who claimed we had to vote for their man as he “will fix the Supreme Court”, a job Republicans failed to do despite controlling the White House for 20 out of the last 32 years. It was in fact a Republican court that gave us Roe v. Wade in the first place. I commend you for voting your conscience. That is the important thing for all to do.

  7. Richard Hess says:

    Add the millions of illegals, dead people and felons who voted plus all you fence sitters and Romney won.

    • Fernanda says:

      Actually, if the same number of people who voted for McCain last election had voted for Romney this election, Romney would have won because Obama lost a lot of votes too. This also proves my original point that Romney simply was not a compelling enough candidate to get out the vote.

  8. Frank says:

    In many ways, Republicans were their own worst enemies in 2012. Their verbal gaffes succeeded in alienating large numbers of women. Plus, we had Romney flip-flopping so often that I was getting dizzy, not to mention putting his foot in his mouth with his 47% comment. When will the GOP stop nominating cream puffs like McCain and Romney?

  9. Brenda says:

    Personally, I believe a MORE conservative candidate is what we need. More and more people are leaving the Republicans and becoming independent because of the RINO’s.

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