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Why Are U.S. Presidential Elections So Close?

‘…The top two contenders, typically a Democratic and a Republican, but occasionally a Whig, have danced closely around the 50-50 mark for nearly 100 years. Only four times since 1824 has the winner received more than 60 percent of the popular vote. Since 2000, the candidates have been separated by an average of 3.5 points. The median and average separations have been 8.2 and 9.5 points since 1824—a figure skewed upward due to a few outlying and not particularly close races. (The electoral tally doesn’t usually appear so close because the Electoral College tends to magnify differences in the popular vote.)

This is a feature of U.S. politics that many of us have become accustomed to. So is it unsurprising? Not really. “Considering all of the factors that go into what would make an election close or not close—incumbency, the brand of the parties—my perspective is that there’s a surprising rate of close elections,” Eitan Hersh, a Yale political scientist and the author of Hacking the Electorate: How Campaigns Perceive Voters, told me.

The question is, why? …’

Keep reading: Nautilus