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In a United States presidential election, the popular vote is the total number or the percentage of votes cast for a candidate by voters in the 50 states and Washington, D.C.; the candidate who gains the most votes nationwide is said to have won the popular vote. However, the popular vote is not used to determine who is elected as the nation's president or vice president. Thus it is possible for the winner of the popular vote to end up losing the election, an outcome that has occurred on five occasions, most recently in the 2016 election. This is because presidential elections are indirect elections; the votes cast on Election Day are not cast directly for a candidate, but for members of the Electoral College. The Electoral College's electors then formally elect the president and vice president.
The Twelfth Amendment to the United States Constitution (1804) provides the procedure by which the president and vice president are elected; electors vote separately for each office. Previously, electors cast two votes for president, and the winner and runner up became president and vice-president respectively. The appointment of electors is a matter for each state's legislature to determine; in 1872 and in every presidential election since 1880, all states have used a popular vote to do so.
The 1824 election was the first in which the popular vote was first fully recorded and reported. Since then, 19 presidential elections have occurred in which a candidate was elected or reelected without gaining a majority of the popular vote. Since the 1988 election, the popular vote of presidential elections was decided by single-digit margins, the longest since states began popularly electing presidents in the 1820s.
The table below is a list of United States presidential elections by popular vote margin. It is sorted to display elections by their presidential term / year of election, name, margin by percentage in popular vote, popular vote, margin in popular vote by number, and the runner up in the Electoral College.
|Parties: Democratic-Republican • Democratic • Republican • Whig • Progressive • Liberal Republican • National Republican • Federalist • Independent|
|Vote outcomes: Winner did not receive a majority of the popular vote • Winner lost the popular vote • Winner chosen by the House of Representatives|
|Election||Winner and party||Electoral College||Popular vote||Runner-up and party||Turnout|
|1788–89||George Washington||Ind.||69/69||100.00%||100.00%||100.00%||43,782||43,782||[a]No candidate||11.6%|
|1792||George Washington||Ind.||132/132||100.00%||100.00%||100.00%||28,579||28,579||[a]No candidate||6.3%|
|1796||John Adams||Fed.||71/138||51.45%||53.45%||6.90%||35,726||4,611||Thomas Jefferson||D-R[b]||20.1%|
|1800||Thomas Jefferson||D-R||73/138||52.90%||61.43%||22.86%||41,330||15,378||Aaron Burr||D-R[c]||32.3%|
|1804||Thomas Jefferson||D-R||162/176||92.05%||72.79%||45.58%||104,110||65,191||Charles C. Pinckney||Fed.||23.8%|
|1808||James Madison||D-R||122/175||69.72%||64.74%||32.33%||124,732||62,301||Charles C. Pinckney||Fed.||36.8%|
|1812||James Madison||D-R||128/217||58.99%||50.37%||2.74%||140,431||7,650||DeWitt Clinton||D-R[d]||40.4%|
|1816||James Monroe||D-R||183/217||84.33%||68.16%||37.24%||76,592||41,852||Rufus King||Fed.||23.5%|
|1820||James Monroe||D-R||231/232||99.57%||80.61%||64.69%||87,343||69,878||John Quincy Adams||D-R[e]||10.1%|
|1824||John Quincy Adams||D-R||84/261||32.18%||30.92%||−10.44%||113,142||−38,221||Andrew Jackson||D-R[f]||26.9%|
|1828||Andrew Jackson||Dem.||178/261||68.20%||55.93%||12.25%||642,806||140,839||John Quincy Adams||NR||57.3%|
|1832||Andrew Jackson||Dem.||219/286||76.57%||54.74%||17.81%||702,735||228,628||Henry Clay||NR||57.0%|
|1836||Martin Van Buren||Dem.||170/294||57.82%||50.79%||14.20%||763,291||213,384||William Henry Harrison||Whig||56.5%|
|1840||William Henry Harrison||Whig||234/294||79.59%||52.87%||6.05%||1,275,583||145,938||Martin Van Buren||Dem.||80.3%|
|1844||James K. Polk||Dem.||170/275||61.82%||49.54%||1.45%||1,339,570||39,413||Henry Clay||Whig||79.2%|
|1848||Zachary Taylor||Whig||163/290||56.21%||47.28%||4.79%||1,360,235||137,882||Lewis Cass||Dem.||72.8%|
|1852||Franklin Pierce||Dem.||254/296||85.81%||50.83%||6.95%||1,605,943||219,525||Winfield Scott||Whig||69.5%|
|1856||James Buchanan||Dem.||174/296||58.78%||45.29%||12.20%||1,835,140||494,472||John C. Frémont||Rep.||79.4%|
|1860||Abraham Lincoln||Rep.||180/303||59.41%||39.65%||10.13%||1,855,993||474,049||John C. Breckinridge||Dem.[g]||81.8%|
|1864||Abraham Lincoln||Rep.||212/233||90.99%||55.03%||10.08%||2,211,317||405,090||George B. McClellan||Dem.||76.3%|
|1868||Ulysses S. Grant||Rep.||214/294||72.79%||52.66%||5.32%||3,013,790||304,810||Horatio Seymour||Dem.||80.9%|
|1872||Ulysses S. Grant||Rep.||286/352||81.25%||55.58%||11.80%||3,597,439||763,729||Thomas A. Hendricks||Dem.[h]||72.1%|
|1876||Rutherford B. Hayes||Rep.||185/369||50.14%||47.92%||−3.00%||4,034,142||−252,666||Samuel J. Tilden||Dem.||82.6%|
|1880||James A. Garfield||Rep.||214/369||57.99%||48.31%||0.09%||4,453,337||1,898||Winfield Scott Hancock||Dem.||80.5%|
|1884||Grover Cleveland||Dem.||219/401||54.61%||48.85%||0.57%||4,914,482||57,579||James G. Blaine||Rep.||78.2%|
|1888||Benjamin Harrison||Rep.||233/401||58.10%||47.80%||−0.83%||5,443,892||−90,596||Grover Cleveland||Dem.||80.5%|
|1892||Grover Cleveland||Dem.||277/444||62.39%||46.02%||3.01%||5,553,898||363,099||Benjamin Harrison||Rep.||75.8%|
|1896||William McKinley||Rep.||271/447||60.63%||51.02%||4.31%||7,112,138||601,331||William Jennings Bryan||Dem.||79.6%|
|1900||William McKinley||Rep.||292/447||65.23%||51.64%||6.12%||7,228,864||857,932||William Jennings Bryan||Dem.||73.7%|
|1904||Theodore Roosevelt||Rep.||336/476||70.59%||56.42%||18.83%||7,630,557||2,546,677||Alton Brooks Parker||Dem.||65.5%|
|1908||William Howard Taft||Rep.||321/483||66.46%||51.57%||8.53%||7,678,335||1,269,356||William Jennings Bryan||Dem.||65.7%|
|1912||Woodrow Wilson||Dem.||435/531||81.92%||41.84%||14.44%||6,296,284||2,173,563||Theodore Roosevelt||Prog.||59.0%|
|1916||Woodrow Wilson||Dem.||277/531||52.17%||49.24%||3.12%||9,126,868||578,140||Charles Evans Hughes||Rep.||61.8%|
|1920||Warren G. Harding||Rep.||404/531||76.08%||60.32%||26.17%||16,144,093||7,004,432||James M. Cox||Dem.||49.2%|
|1924||Calvin Coolidge||Rep.||382/531||71.94%||54.04%||25.22%||15,723,789||7,337,547||John W. Davis||Dem.||48.9%|
|1928||Herbert Hoover||Rep.||444/531||83.62%||58.21%||17.41%||21,427,123||6,411,659||Al Smith||Dem.||56.9%|
|1932||Franklin D. Roosevelt||Dem.||472/531||88.89%||57.41%||17.76%||22,821,277||7,060,023||Herbert Hoover||Rep.||56.9%|
|1936||Franklin D. Roosevelt||Dem.||523/531||98.49%||60.80%||24.26%||27,752,648||11,070,786||Alf Landon||Rep.||61.0%|
|1940||Franklin D. Roosevelt||Dem.||449/531||84.56%||54.74%||9.96%||27,313,945||4,966,201||Wendell Willkie||Rep.||62.4%|
|1944||Franklin D. Roosevelt||Dem.||432/531||81.36%||53.39%||7.50%||25,612,916||3,594,987||Thomas E. Dewey||Rep.||55.9%|
|1948||Harry S. Truman||Dem.||303/531||57.06%||49.55%||4.48%||24,179,347||2,188,055||Thomas E. Dewey||Rep.||52.2%|
|1952||Dwight D. Eisenhower||Rep.||442/531||83.24%||55.18%||10.85%||34,075,529||6,700,439||Adlai Stevenson II||Dem.||62.3%|
|1956||Dwight D. Eisenhower||Rep.||457/531||86.06%||57.37%||15.40%||35,579,180||9,551,152||Adlai Stevenson II||Dem.||60.2%|
|1960||John F. Kennedy||Dem.||303/537||56.42%||49.72%||0.17%||34,220,984||112,827||Richard Nixon||Rep.||63.8%|
|1964||Lyndon B. Johnson||Dem.||486/538||90.33%||61.05%||22.58%||43,127,041||15,951,287||Barry Goldwater||Rep.||62.8%|
|1968||Richard Nixon||Rep.||301/538||55.95%||43.42%||0.70%||31,783,783||511,944||Hubert Humphrey||Dem.||62.5%|
|1972||Richard Nixon||Rep.||520/538||96.65%||60.67%||23.15%||47,168,710||17,995,488||George McGovern||Dem.||56.2%|
|1976||Jimmy Carter||Dem.||297/538||55.20%||50.08%||2.06%||40,831,881||1,683,247||Gerald Ford||Rep.||54.8%|
|1980||Ronald Reagan||Rep.||489/538||90.89%||50.75%||9.74%||43,903,230||8,423,115||Jimmy Carter||Dem.||54.2%|
|1984||Ronald Reagan||Rep.||525/538||97.58%||58.77%||18.21%||54,455,472||16,878,120||Walter Mondale||Dem.||55.2%|
|1988||George H. W. Bush||Rep.||426/538||79.18%||53.37%||7.72%||48,886,597||7,077,121||Michael Dukakis||Dem.||52.8%|
|1992||Bill Clinton||Dem.||370/538||68.77%||43.01%||5.56%||44,909,806||5,805,256||George H. W. Bush||Rep.||58.1%|
|1996||Bill Clinton||Dem.||379/538||70.45%||49.23%||8.51%||47,400,125||8,201,370||Bob Dole||Rep.||51.7%|
|2000||George W. Bush||Rep.||271/537||50.47%||47.87%||−0.51%||50,455,156||−537,179||Al Gore||Dem.||54.2%|
|2004||George W. Bush||Rep.||286/538||53.16%||50.73%||2.46%||62,040,610||3,012,171||John Kerry||Dem.||60.1%|
|2008||Barack Obama||Dem.||365/538||67.84%||52.93%||7.27%||69,498,516||9,550,193||John McCain||Rep.||61.6%|
|2012||Barack Obama||Dem.||332/538||61.71%||51.06%||3.86%||65,915,795||4,982,291||Mitt Romney||Rep.||58.6%|
|2016||Donald Trump||Rep.||304/538||56.50%||46.09%||−2.09%||62,984,828||−2,868,686||Hillary Clinton||Dem.||57.3%|
|2020||Joe Biden||Dem.||306/538||56.88%||51.31%||4.45%||81,284,666||7,060,347||Donald Trump||Rep.||66.6%|
- Washington ran unopposed and was unanimously elected in both elections; John Adams received the majority of electors' second votes and became vice-president.
- Jefferson became vice-president, as both Adams's and Jefferson's electors split over their choices for vice-president.
- Jefferson and Burr ran on the same ticket; Jefferson's main election rival in the 1800 election was incumbent president and Federalist candidate, John Adams. Due to the Democratic-Republicans failing to arrange for a different candidate to receive what was Burr's 73rd electoral vote, the election was decided by the House, who eventually elected Jefferson on the 36th ballot. The Twelfth Amendment was later enacted to prevent a recurrence of the issue.
- While commonly labeled as the Federalist candidate, Clinton ran as a Democratic-Republican and was not nominated by the Federalist party itself, the latter simply deciding not to field a candidate. This did not prevent endorsements from state Federalist parties (such as in Pennsylvania), but he received endorsements from state Democratic-Republican parties (such as in New York) as well.
- The 1820 election took place at the height of the Era of Good Feelings; Monroe did not face serious opposition, though 16% of the popular vote went towards unpledged Federalist electors. Adams's only electoral vote came from a faithless elector.
- Jackson won a plurality of electoral votes – 99 compared to Adams's 84 – but lost due to Adams securing a majority of state delegations in the contingent election.
- Breckinridge was the runner up in the electoral vote; Stephen A. Douglas was the runner up in the popular vote.
- The initial Democratic-backed candidate, Horace Greeley (Lib. Rep.), died between the popular election and the meeting of electors; his electoral college votes scattered, with Hendricks gaining 42 of the 66 electors previously committed to Greeley.
See also edit
- "Dave Leip's Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections". uselectionatlas.org. Retrieved November 12, 2017.
- "Clinton on pace to win popular vote despite losing election". CBS News. November 9, 2016. Retrieved March 31, 2019.
- Bostedt, Shelbie Lynn (November 9, 2016). "How it happened: Clinton wins popular vote but loses Election". RedEye. Chicago Tribune. Retrieved March 31, 2019.
- McPherson, J. (2001). To the Best of My Ability: The American Presidents. Dorling Kindersly Publishing.
- Enten, Harry (December 26, 2022). "The most underdiscussed fact of the 2022 election: how historically close it was". CNN. Retrieved December 26, 2022.
- McDonald, Michael P. (11 June 2014). "National General Election VEP Turnout Rates, 1789-Present". United States Elections Project. Retrieved 16 November 2016.
- How close were U.S. Presidential Elections? - Michael Sheppard, Massachusetts Institute of Technology