Open Letter to Roger Ailes & Fox News: Use approval and score voting polls

The first Republican Primary Debate (hosted by Fox News) is rapidly approaching. Who should debate? That (Fox said) would be decided by using standings in 5 nationwide polls.

But the most-commonly used voting method, plurality voting, is highly unsuited to polling elections of this kind. It will yield extremely distorted results. There are two much better voting methods unfortunately not currently used by the USA (general elections) or the Republican Party for its primary: "approval voting" and "score voting."

Plurality: Each voter names exactly one candidate, then shuts up, i.e. is not allowed to say anything about how much she likes or dislikes any of the other candidates. The most-named candidate wins.

Approval: Each voter "approves" or "disapproves" each candidate. The candidate with greatest approval/disapproval ratio wins.

Score: Each voter scores each candidate on a fixed scale (for example 0 to 9). Highest average wins. (If a voter chooses not to score certain candidates, their averages are unaffected.)

In particular, Donald Trump is "leading" according to all 6 of the most major July US-wide polls we found, using plurality voting. But in several polls, Trump is "bottommost" when reckoned using Approval and Score voting (and in every poll of those kinds we know, he lies in the bottom half of the field), and in particular his election chances versus either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders would be the worst among all Republican candidates!

This massive distortion, leading↔bottommost, is caused by the wrong choice of voting system: Plurality is agreed by virtually all experts in voting methods to be one of the worst. (At the Voting Procedures workshop, Normandy, July 2010, Plurality was unanimously voted by the participants to be the worst among 18 methods.)

Fortunately several approval and score voting style US-wide polls have already been conducted – see This Review. You can and should use them right now to help decide who should debate. If you announce that, then Fox News will be

  1. Helping the Republican Party. If the flawed Plurality system causes Republicans to nominate the candidate least likely to win the General, something is wrong. Help fix that.
  2. Advancing democracy. For the first time, a major news organization will be announcing what voting methods experts have been screaming for decades – other voting methods are better – and saying Fox News does not intend to remain in the Stone Age.
  3. Showing Fox and Republicans can be pro-science. They've been branded as anti-science and against fair voting; but the branders would not be the ones taking this historic step: Fox would.
  4. Helping the USA and World. Computer simulation studies indicate if the world's democracies switched to score voting, the net benefit would be comparable to, or exceed, inventing democracy in the first place. Why isn't the media yelling and screaming that? Well, that's their stupidity. Fox is under no obligation to join it.

This move may engender some controversy, but no matter what Fox does, it will be criticized. If you are going to get criticized anyway, you might as well actually be right. If the Republicans adopt Score voting for their primary while the Democrats don't, that will hurt the Democratic party's election chances for as many years as they continue to resist.


Add your signature by emailing warren.wds AT

Warren D. Smith (PhD). 2 Aug 2015.
Co-inventor of Rivest/Smith antifraud voting methods. Inventor of shortest splitline antigerrymandering districting method. Main author of web site, best online information source about voting methods.

Steven J. Brams (PhD). 2 Aug 2015.
NYU political science professor. Co-author of book Approval Voting.

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