Ross Perot's presence on the 1992 presidential ballot did not change the outcome of the election, according to an analysis of the second choices of Perot supporters.
The analysis, based on exit polls conducted by Voter Research & Surveys (VRS) for the major news organizations, indicated that in Perot's absence, only Ohio would have have shifted from the Clinton column to the Bush column. This would still have left Clinton with a healthy 349-to-189 majority in the electoral college.
And even in Ohio, the hypothetical Bush "margin" without Perot in the race was so small that given the normal margin of error in polls, the state still might have stuck with Clinton absent the Texas billionaire.
In most states, the second choices of Perot voters only reinforced the actual outcome. For example, California, New York, Illinois and Oregon went to Clinton by large margins, and Perot voters in those states strongly preferred Clinton to Bush.
On the other hand, Texas and Florida went to Bush, and Perot supporters in those states preferred Bush to Clinton. In Texas, home state to both Bush and Perot, the billionaire took about three votes from Bush for every two he took from Clinton.
Only in a few southern states that Clinton carried -- notably Tennessee -- did the majority of Perot supporters go against the grain and prefer Bush to the Democratic nominee.
The analysis of Perot's electoral college impact was conducted by VRS at the request of The Washington Post. In 24 state exit polls, voters were asked how they would have voted had Perot not been on the ballot.
This question was also asked in a nationwide exit poll. In the 26 states (and the District of Columbia) where the Perot second-choice question was not asked, regional estimates of the Perot second preferences were applied to see how the independent might have tipped the outcome.
In the nationwide popular vote, Clinton's margin over Bush would have been about the same without Perot in the contest.
In the actual vote, Clinton won 43.7 million popular votes to 38.2 million for Bush and 19.2 million for Perot.
According to the VRS estimate, without Perot in the race, Clinton would have won 51.4 million to 45.6 million for Bush. Total turnout would have been smaller, because many Perot supporters said they would not have voted if the independent had not run.
While an analysis of exit polls can help in determining the impact of Perot on Election Day, it cannot answer questions about Perot's impact on the overall direction of the campaign. These include whether Perot helped Clinton by directing so much of his early fire at Bush or whether he helped Bush by reentering the contest at a point when Clinton enjoyed a substantial advantage.
Nor can the polls determine with certainty where Perot backers would ultimately have landed had Perot not revived his candidacy in October.
But the analysis does suggest that enough Perot voters were opposed to Bush that without the independent in the race, Clinton would have secured an absolute majority of both the popular and the electoral vote.
What if Ross Perot's name had not been on the ballot Tuesday? Exit polling data shows that only one state -- Ohio, with 21 electoral votes -- would have gone for President Bush instead of Bill Clinton.
In most states, voters would have switched to the candidate that carried their home state.
Most Perot voters would have voted for Bush in:
Ariz., Fla., Ga., Ind., N.H., N.J., N.C., Ohio, Tenn., Tex.
Most Perot voters would have voted for Clinton in:
Calif., Colo., Conn., Ill., Ky., La., Mich., Minn., Mo., N.Y., Ore., Pa., Wash., Wis.
Source: Voter Research & Surveys