Much is being made of a Quinnipiac poll showing an “unnamed Democrat” edging out George W. Bush for president in 2004. The actual question, asked of 1,232 “American voters,” was: If George W. Bush runs for re-election in 2004, in general are you more likely to vote for Bush or for the Democratic Party’s candidate for president?

Here’s some context.

CBS/NYT Poll, Feb. 22 1995
If Bill Clinton is the Democratic presidential candidate in 1996, do you think you will probably vote for Bill Clinton, or for the Republican candidate, or don’t you know yet?
Bill Clinton – 25%
Republican candidate – 34
Don’t know yet – 37
Someone else (vol.) – 1
Wouldn’t vote – 1
Don’t know/No answer – 2
(1,190 respondents)

Gallup Poll, Feb. 25 1983
Suppose the 1984 presidential election were being held TODAY. If President Reagan were the Republican candidate and Walter Mondale were the Democratic candidate, which would you like to see win? (Those giving a response other than Reagan/Mondale or who were undecided were asked:) As of today, do you lean more to Reagan, the Republican, or to Mondale, the Democrat?
Reagan – 41%
Mondale – 47
Other – 3
Undecided – 9
(1,540 National Adults)

I wish I could find polls with identical wording, but these provide some useful background. The obvious question underpinning all of this, though, is this: When did we start electing presidents via the popular vote?

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