United States presidential election

The election of president and vice president of the United States is an indirect election in which citizens of the United States who are registered to vote in one of the 50 U.S. states or in Washington, D.C. cast ballots not directly for those offices, but instead for members of the U.S. Electoral College, known as electors. These electors then in turn cast direct votes, known as electoral votes, for president, and for vice president. The candidate who receives an absolute majority of electoral votes (at least 270 out of a total of 538, since the Twenty-Third Amendment granted voting rights to citizens of Washington, D.C.) is then elected to that office. If no candidate receives an absolute majority of the votes for President, the House of Representatives chooses the winner; if no one receives an absolute majority of the votes for Vice President, then the Senate chooses the winner.

The Electoral College and its procedure are established in the U.S. Constitution by Article II, Section 1, Clauses 2 and 4; and the Twelfth Amendment (which replaced Clause 3 after its ratification in 1804). Under Clause 2, each of the states casts as many electoral votes as the total number of its Senators and Representatives in Congress, while, per the Twenty-third Amendment ratified in 1961, Washington, D.C. casts the same number of electoral votes as the least-represented state, which is three. Also under Clause 2, the manner for choosing electors is determined by each state legislature, not directly by the federal government. Many state legislatures previously selected their electors directly, but over time all of them switched to using the popular vote to help determine electors, which persists today. Once chosen, electors generally cast their electoral votes for the candidate who won the plurality in their state, but at least 21 states do not have provisions that specifically address this behavior; those who vote in opposition to the plurality are known as "faithless" or "unpledged electors".[1] In modern times, faithless and unpledged electors have not affected the ultimate outcome of an election, so the results can generally be determined based on the state-by-state popular vote.

Presidential elections occur quadrennially with registered voters casting their ballots on Election Day, which since 1845 has been the first Tuesday after November 1.[2][3][4] This date coincides with the general elections of various other federal, state, and local races; since local governments are responsible for managing elections, these races typically all appear on one ballot. The Electoral College electors then formally cast their electoral votes on the first Monday after December 12 at their respective state capitals. Congress then certifies the results in early January, and the presidential term begins on Inauguration Day, which since the passage of the Twentieth Amendment has been set at January 20.

The nomination process, consisting of the primary elections and caucuses and the nominating conventions, was not specified in the Constitution, but was developed over time by the states and political parties. These primary elections are generally held between January and June before the general election in November, while the nominating conventions are held in the summer. Though not codified by law, political parties also follow an indirect election process, where voters in the 50 U.S. states, Washington, D.C., and U.S. territories, cast ballots for a slate of delegates to a political party's nominating convention, who then in turn elect their party's presidential nominee. Each party may then choose a vice presidential running mate to join the ticket, which is either determined by choice of the nominee or by a second round of voting. Because of changes to national campaign finance laws since the 1970s regarding the disclosure of contributions for federal campaigns, presidential candidates from the major political parties usually declare their intentions to run as early as the spring of the previous calendar year before the election (almost 18 months before Inauguration Day).[5]

2016 Presidential Election ballot
A 2016 general election ballot, listing the presidential and vice presidential candidates


Article Two of the United States Constitution originally established the method of presidential elections, including the Electoral College. This was a result of a compromise between those constitutional framers who wanted the Congress to choose the president, and those who preferred a national popular vote.[6]

Each state is allocated a number of electors that is equal to the size of its delegation in both houses of Congress combined. With the ratification of the 23rd Amendment to the Constitution in 1961, the District of Columbia is also granted a number of electors, equal to the number of those held by the least populous state. However, U.S. territories are not represented in the Electoral College.

Constitutionally, the manner for choosing electors is determined within each state by its legislature; Article II, Section 1, Clause 2 states that each state shall appoint electors "in such Manner as the Legislature Thereof May Direct."[7] During the first presidential election in 1789, only six of the 13 original states chose electors by any form of popular vote.[note 1] Gradually throughout the years, the states began conducting popular elections to choose their slate of electors. In 1800, only five of the 16 states chose electors by a popular vote; by 1824, after the rise of Jacksonian democracy, the proportion of states that chose electors by popular vote had sharply risen to 18 out of 24 states.[8] This gradual movement toward greater democratization coincided with a gradual decrease in property restrictions for the franchise.[8] By 1840, only one of the 26 states (South Carolina) still selected electors by the state legislature.[9]

Under the original system established by Article Two, electors could cast two votes to two different candidates for president. The candidate with the highest number of votes (provided it was a majority of the electoral votes) became the president, and the second-place candidate became the vice president. This presented a problem during the presidential election of 1800 when Aaron Burr received the same number of electoral votes as Thomas Jefferson and challenged Jefferson's election to the office. In the end, Jefferson was chosen as the president because of Alexander Hamilton's influence in the House of Representatives.

In response to the 1800 election, the 12th Amendment was passed, requiring electors to cast two distinct votes: one for President and another for Vice President. While this solved the problem at hand, it ultimately had the effect of lowering the prestige of the Vice Presidency, as the office was no longer for the leading challenger for the Presidency. The separate ballots for President and Vice President became something of a moot issue later in the 19th century when it became the norm for popular elections to determine a state's Electoral College delegation. Electors chosen this way are pledged to vote for a particular presidential and vice presidential candidate (offered by the same political party). So, while the Constitution says that the President and Vice President are chosen separately, in practice they are chosen together.

The 12th Amendment also established rules when no candidate wins a majority vote in the Electoral College. In the presidential election of 1824, Andrew Jackson received a plurality, but not a majority, of electoral votes cast. The election was thrown to the House of Representatives, and John Quincy Adams was elected to the presidency. A deep rivalry resulted between Andrew Jackson and House Speaker Henry Clay, who had also been a candidate in the election.

Since 1824, aside from the occasional "faithless elector", the popular vote determines the winner of a presidential election by determining the electoral vote, as each state or district's popular vote determines its electoral college vote. Although the nationwide popular vote does not directly determine the winner of a presidential election, it does strongly correlate with who is the victor. In 53 of the 58 total elections held so far (about 91 percent), the winner of the national popular vote has also carried the Electoral College vote. The winners of the nationwide popular vote and the Electoral College vote differ only in close elections. In highly competitive elections, candidates focus on turning out their vote in the contested swing states critical to winning an electoral college majority, so they do not try to maximize their popular vote by real or fraudulent vote increases in one-party areas.[10]

However, candidates can fail to get the most votes in the nationwide popular vote in a Presidential election and still win that election. In the 1824 election, Jackson won the popular vote, but no one received the majority of electoral votes. According to the 12th Amendment in the Constitution, the House of Representatives must choose the president out of the top three people in the election. Clay had come fourth, so he threw his support to Adams, who then won. Because Adams later named Clay his Secretary of State, Jackson's supporters claimed that Adams gained the presidency by making a deal with Clay. Charges of a "corrupt bargain" followed Adams through his term.

US Presidential elections popular votes since 1900
Comparison of the popular vote totals since 1900.
  All other candidates together

Then in 1876, 1888, 2000, and 2016, the winner of electoral vote lost the popular vote outright. Numerous constitutional amendments have been submitted seeking to replace the Electoral College with a direct popular vote, but none has ever successfully passed both Houses of Congress. Another alternate proposal is the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, an interstate compact whereby individual participating states agree to allocate their electors based on the winner of the national popular vote instead of just their respective statewide results.

The presidential election day was established on a Tuesday in the month of November because of the factors involved (weather, harvests and worship). When voters used to travel to the polls by horse, Tuesday was an ideal day because it allowed people to worship on Sunday, ride to their county seat on Monday, and vote on Tuesday—all before market day, Wednesday. The month of November also fits nicely between harvest time and harsh winter weather, which could be especially bad to people traveling by horse and buggy.[11]

Until 1937, presidents were not sworn in until March 4 because it took so long to count and report ballots, and because of the winner's logistical issues of moving to the capital. With better technology and the 20th Amendment being passed, presidential inaugurations were moved to noon on January 20—allowing presidents to start their duties sooner.[11]

The Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 was enacted to increase disclosure of contributions for federal campaigns. Subsequent amendments to law require that candidates to a federal office must file a Statement of Candidacy with the Federal Election Commission before they can receive contributions aggregating in excess of $5,000 or make expenditures aggregating in excess of $5,000. Thus, this began a trend of presidential candidates declaring their intentions to run as early as the Spring of the previous calendar year so they can start raising and spending the money needed for their nationwide campaign.[5]

The first president, George Washington, was elected as an independent. Since the election of his successor, John Adams, in 1796, all winners of U.S. presidential elections have represented one of two major parties. Third parties have taken second place only twice, in 1860 and 1912. The last time a third (independent) candidate achieved significant success (although still finishing in third place) was in 1992, and the last time a third-party candidate received any electoral votes not from faithless electors was in 1968.


Eligibility requirements

The hand-written copy of the natural-born-citizen clause as it appeared in 1787

Article Two of the United States Constitution stipulates that for a person to serve as President, the individual must be a natural-born citizen of the United States, at least 35 years old, and a resident of the United States for a period of no less than 14 years. A candidate may start running his or her campaign early before turning 35 years old or completing 14 years of residency, but must meet the age and residency requirements by Inauguration Day. The Twenty-second Amendment to the Constitution also sets a term limit: a President cannot be elected to more than two terms.

The U.S. Constitution also has two provisions that apply to all federal offices in general, not just the presidency. Article I, Section 3, Clause 7 states that if the U.S. Congress convicts any officer on impeachment, they may also bar that person from holding any public office in the future. And Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment prohibits the election to any federal office of any person who had held any federal or state office and then engaged in insurrection, rebellion or treason; this disqualification can be waived if such an individual gains the consent of two-thirds of both houses of Congress.

In addition, the Twelfth Amendment establishes that the Vice-President must meet all of the qualifications of being a President.

Although not a mandatory requirement, Federal campaign finance laws including the Federal Election Campaign Act state that a candidate who intends to receive contributions aggregating in excess of $5,000 or make expenditures aggregating in excess of $5,000, among others, must first file a Statement of Candidacy with the Federal Election Commission.[12] This has led presidential candidates, especially members from the two major political parties, to officially announce their intentions to run as early as the spring of the previous calendar year so they can start raising or spending the money needed for their nationwide campaign.[5] Potential candidates usually form exploratory committees even earlier to determining the feasibility of them actually running.

Nominating process

Iowa City Caucus
A 2008 Democratic caucus meeting in Iowa City, Iowa. The Iowa caucuses are traditionally the first major electoral event of presidential primaries and caucuses.
Madison Square Garden, February 2013
Madison Square Garden in New York City, the site of the 1976, 1980, and 1992 Democratic National Conventions; and the 2004 Republican National Convention.

The modern nominating process of U.S. presidential elections consists of two major parts: a series of presidential primary elections and caucuses held in each state, and the presidential nominating conventions held by each political party. This process was never included in the United States Constitution, and thus evolved over time by the political parties to clear the field of candidates.

The primary elections are run by state and local governments, while the caucuses are organized directly by the political parties. Some states hold only primary elections, some hold only caucuses, and others use a combination of both. These primaries and caucuses are staggered generally between January and June before the federal election, with Iowa and New Hampshire traditionally holding the first presidential state caucus and primary, respectively.

Like the general election, presidential caucuses or primaries are indirect elections. The major political parties officially vote for their presidential candidate at their respective nominating conventions, usually all held in the summer before the federal election. Depending on each state's law and state's political party rules, when voters cast ballots for a candidate in a presidential caucus or primary, they may be voting to award delegates "bound" to vote for a candidate at the presidential nominating conventions, or they may simply be expressing an opinion that the state party is not bound to follow in selecting delegates to their respective national convention.

Unlike the general election, voters in the U.S. territories can also elect delegates to the national conventions. Furthermore, each political party can determine how many delegates to allocate to each state and territory. In 2012 for example, the Democratic and Republican party conventions each used two different formulas to allocate delegates. The Democrats-based theirs on two main factors: the proportion of votes each state gave to the Democratic candidate in the previous three presidential elections, and the number of electoral votes each state had in the Electoral College.[13] In contrast, the Republicans assigned to each state 10 delegates, plus 3 delegates per congressional district.[14] Both parties then gave fixed amounts of delegates to each territory, and finally bonus delegates to states and territories that passed certain criteria.[13][14]

Along with delegates chosen during primaries and caucuses, state and U.S. territory delegations to both the Democratic and Republican party conventions also include "unpledged" delegates that have a vote. For Republicans, they consist of the three top party officials from each state and territory. Democrats have a more expansive group of unpledged delegates called "superdelegates", who are party leaders and elected officials.

Each party's presidential candidate also chooses a vice presidential nominee to run with him or her on the same ticket, and this choice is rubber-stamped by the convention.

If no single candidate has secured a majority of delegates (including both pledged and unpledged), then a "brokered convention" results. All pledged delegates are then "released" and are able to switch their allegiance to a different candidate. Thereafter, the nomination is decided through a process of alternating political horse trading, and additional rounds of re-votes.[15][16][17][18]

The conventions have historically been held inside convention centers, but since the late 20th century both the Democratic and Republican parties have favored sports arenas and domed stadiums to accommodate the increasing attendance.

The popular vote on Election Day

Larsz - US election 08 (by-sa)
A Texas voter about to mark a selection for president on a ballot, 2008 Election Day

Under the United States Constitution, the manner of choosing electors for the Electoral College is determined by each state's legislature. Although each state designates electors by popular vote, other methods are allowed. For instance, instead of having a popular vote, a number of states used to select presidential electors by a direct vote of the state legislature itself.

However, federal law does specify that all electors must be selected on the same day, which is "the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November," i.e., a Tuesday no earlier than November 2 and no later than November 8.[19] Today, the states and the District of Columbia each conduct their own popular elections on Election Day to help determine their respective slate of electors. Thus, the presidential election is really an amalgamation of separate and simultaneous state elections instead of a single national election run by the federal government.

Like any other election in the United States, the eligibility of an individual for voting is set out in the Constitution and regulated at state level. The Constitution states that suffrage cannot be denied on grounds of race or color, sex or age for citizens eighteen years or older. Beyond these basic qualifications, it is the responsibility of state legislatures to regulate voter eligibility.

Generally, voters are required to vote on a ballot where they select the candidate of their choice. The presidential ballot is a vote "for the electors of a candidate" meaning that the voter is not voting for the candidate, but endorsing a slate of electors pledged to vote for a specific presidential and vice presidential candidate.

Many voting ballots allow a voter to "blanket vote" for all candidates in a particular political party or to select individual candidates on a line by line voting system. Which candidates appear on the voting ticket is determined through a legal process known as ballot access. Usually, the size of the candidate's political party and the results of the major nomination conventions determine who is pre-listed on the presidential ballot. Thus, the presidential election ticket will not list every candidate running for President, but only those who have secured a major party nomination or whose size of their political party warrants having been formally listed. Laws are in effect to have other candidates pre-listed on a ticket, provided that enough voters have endorsed the candidate, usually through a signature list.

The final way to be elected for president is to have one's name written in at the time of election as a write-in candidate. This is used for candidates who did not fulfill the legal requirements to be pre-listed on the voting ticket. It is also used by voters to express a distaste for the listed candidates, by writing in an alternative candidate for president such as Mickey Mouse or comedian Stephen Colbert (whose application was voted down by the South Carolina Democratic Party). In any event, a write-in candidate has never won an election for President of the United States.

Because U.S. territories are not represented in the Electoral College, U.S. citizens in those areas do not vote in the general election for President. Guam has held straw polls for president since the 1980 election to draw attention to this fact.[20]

Electoral college

Electoral College map showing the results of the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Republican candidate Donald Trump won the popular vote in 30 states (denoted in red) to capture 305 electoral votes (plus 1 electoral vote from Maine's second congressional district). Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton won the popular vote in 20 states and Washington, D.C. (denoted in blue) to capture 232 electoral votes.

Most state laws establish a winner-take-all system, wherein the ticket that wins a plurality of votes wins all of that state's allocated electoral votes, and thus has their slate of electors chosen to vote in the Electoral College. Maine and Nebraska do not use this method, instead giving two electoral votes to the statewide winner and one electoral vote to the winner of each Congressional district.

Each state's winning slate of electors then meets at their respective state's capital on the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December to cast their electoral votes on separate ballots for President and Vice President. Although Electoral College members can technically vote for anyone under the U.S. Constitution, 24 states have laws to punish faithless electors,[21] those who do not cast their electoral votes for the person whom they have pledged to elect.

In early January, the total Electoral College vote count is opened by the sitting Vice President, acting in his capacity as President of the Senate, and read aloud to a joint session of the incoming Congress, which was elected at the same time as the President.

If no candidate receives a majority of the electoral vote (at least 270), the President is determined by the rules outlined by the 12th Amendment. Specifically, the selection of President would then be decided by a contingent election in a ballot of the House of Representatives. For the purposes of electing the President, each state has only one vote. A ballot of the Senate is held to choose the Vice President. In this ballot, each senator has one vote. The House of Representatives has chosen the victor of the presidential race only twice, in 1800 and 1824; the Senate has chosen the victor of the vice-presidential race only once, in 1836.

If the President is not chosen by Inauguration Day, the Vice President-elect acts as President. If neither are chosen by then, Congress by law determines who shall act as President, pursuant to the 20th Amendment.

Unless there are faithless electors, disputes, or other controversies, the events in December and January mentioned above are largely a formality since the winner can be determined based on the state-by-state popular vote results. Between the general election and Inauguration Day, this apparent winner is referred to as the "President-elect" (unless it is a sitting President that has won re-election).

Election calendar

The typical periods of the presidential election process are as follows, with the dates corresponding to the 2020 general election:

  • Spring 2019 – Candidates announce their intentions to run, and (if necessary) file their Statement of Candidacy with the Federal Election Commission
  • June 2019 to April 2020 – Primary and caucus debates
  • February 3 to June 16, 2020 – Primaries and caucuses
  • Late May to August, 2020 – Nominating conventions (including those of the minor third parties)
  • September and October, 2020 – Presidential election debates
  • Tuesday, November 3, 2020 – Election Day
  • Monday, December 14, 2020 – Electors cast their electoral votes
  • Wednesday, January 6, 2021 – Congress counts and certifies the electoral votes
  • Wednesday, January 20, 2021 – Inauguration Day


Previous experience

John Adams crop
John Adams was the first of 26 presidents who have been lawyers.

Among the 44 persons who have served as president, only Donald Trump had never held a position in either government or the military prior to taking office.[22] The only previous experience that Zachary Taylor, Ulysses S. Grant, and Dwight D. Eisenhower had was in the military. Herbert Hoover previously served as the Secretary of Commerce. Everyone else served in elected public office before becoming president, such as being Vice President, a member of the United States Congress, or a state or territorial governor.

Fourteen Presidents also served as vice president. However, only John Adams (1796), Thomas Jefferson (1800), Martin Van Buren (1836), Richard Nixon (1968) and George H. W. Bush (1988) began their first term after winning an election. The remaining nine began their first term as president according to the presidential line of succession after the intra-term death or resignation of their predecessor. Of these, Theodore Roosevelt, Calvin Coolidge, Harry S. Truman, and Lyndon B. Johnson were subsequently elected to a full term of their own, while John Tyler, Millard Fillmore, Andrew Johnson, Chester A. Arthur, and Gerald Ford were not. Ford's accession to the presidency is unique in American history in that he became vice president through the process prescribed by the Twenty-fifth Amendment rather than by winning an election, thus making him the only U.S. president to not have been elected to either office.

Sixteen presidents had previously served in the U.S. Senate, including four of the five who served between 1945 and 1974. However, only three were incumbent senators at the time they were elected president (Warren G. Harding in 1920, John F. Kennedy in 1960, and Barack Obama in 2008). Eighteen presidents had earlier served in the House of Representatives. However, only one was a sitting representative when elected to presidency (James A. Garfield in 1880).

Four of the last seven presidents (Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush) have been governors of a state. Geographically, these presidents were from either very large states (Reagan from California, Bush from Texas) or from a state south of the Mason–Dixon line and east of Texas (Carter from Georgia, Clinton from Arkansas). In all, sixteen presidents have been former governors, including seven who were incumbent governors at the time of their election to the presidency.

The most common job experience, occupation or profession of U.S. presidents has been lawyer;[23] 26 presidents had served as attorneys. Twenty-two presidents were also in the military. Eight presidents had served as Cabinet Secretaries, with five of the six Presidents who served between 1801 and 1841 having held the office of U.S. Secretary of State.

After leaving office, one president, William Howard Taft, served as Chief Justice of the United States. Two others later served in Congress – John Quincy Adams, who served in the House, and Andrew Johnson, who served in the Senate.

Technology and media

Lyndon B. Johnson's 1964 "Daisy" advertisement

Advances in technology and media have also affected presidential campaigns. The invention of both radio and television have given way to the reliance of national political advertisements across those methods of communication. National advertisements such as Lyndon B. Johnson's 1964 commercial "Daisy", Ronald Reagan's 1984 commercial "Morning in America", and George H. W. Bush's 1988 commercial "Revolving Door" became major factors in those respective elections. In 1992, George H. W. Bush's promise of "Read my lips: no new taxes" was extensively used in the commercials of Bill Clinton and Bush's other opponents with significant effect during the campaign.

Since the development of the internet in the mid-90s, Internet activism has also become an invaluable component of presidential campaigns, especially since 2000. The internet was first used in the 1996 presidential elections, but primarily as a brochure for the candidate online.[24] It was only used by a few candidates and there is no evidence of any major effect on the outcomes of that election cycle.[24]

In 2000, both candidates (George W. Bush and Al Gore) created, maintained and updated their campaign website. But it was not until the 2004 presidential election cycle was the potential value of the internet seen. By the summer of 2003, ten people competing in the 2004 presidential election had developed campaign websites.[25] Howard Dean's campaign website from that year was considered a model for all future campaign websites. His website played a significant role in his overall campaign strategy.[25] It allowed his supporters to read about his campaign platform and provide feedback, donate, get involved with the campaign, and connect with other supporters.[24] A Gallup poll from January 2004 revealed that 49 percent of Americans have used the internet to get information about candidates, and 28 percent said that they use the internet to get this information frequently.[24]

In 2008, the internet became a grassroots and a voice of the people tool—a way for the users to connect with each other and with the campaign, like Dean's website had done in 2004. All of the major candidates had a website and utilized social networking like Facebook and MySpace. The popularity of a candidate could be measured by the number of "friends" on these sites as well as on websites like Hitwise, which listed the number of hits all of the presidential candidate's websites had each week.

Internet channels such as YouTube were used by candidates to share speeches and ads for free. This also served as a forum for users to attack other candidates by uploading videos of gaffes.[24]

A study done by the Pew Internet & American Life Project in conjunction with Princeton Survey Research Associates in November 2010 shows that 54 percent of adults in the United States used the internet to get information about the 2010 midterm elections and about specific candidates. This represents 73 percent of adult internet users. The study also showed that 22 percent of adult internet users used social network sites or Twitter to get information about and discuss the elections and 26 percent of all adults used cell phones to learn about or participate in campaigns.[26]

E-campaigning as it has come to be called, is subject to very little regulation. On March 26, 2006, the Federal Election Commission voted unanimously to "not regulate political communication on the Internet, including emails, blogs and the creating of Web sites"[27] This decision made only paid political ads placed on websites subject to campaign finance limitations.[28] A comment was made about this decision by Roger Alan Stone of Advocacy Inc. which explains this loophole in the context of a political campaign: "A wealthy individual could purchase all of the e-mail addresses for registered voters in a congressional district…produce an Internet video ad, and e-mail it along with a link to the campaign contribution page…Not only would this activity not count against any contribution limits or independent expenditure requirements; it would never even need to be reported."[27]


GOP Primaries 2012 Calendar
2012 Republican primaries and caucuses calendar.
Swing states 2012
2012 swing states, where the margin of victory was 8 percentage points or fewer.
  States won by Republican Mitt Romney by 0–4 percentage points
  States won by Democrat Barack Obama by 0–4 percentage points
  States won by Democrat Barack Obama by 4–8 percentage points

The presidential election process is controversial, with critics arguing that it is inherently undemocratic, and discourages voter participation and turnout in many areas of the country. Because of the staggered nature of the primary season, voters in Iowa, New Hampshire and other small states which traditionally hold their primaries and caucuses first in January usually have a major impact on the races. Campaign activity, media attention, and voter participation are usually higher in these states, as the candidates attempt to build momentum and generate a bandwagon effect in these early primaries. Conversely, voters in California and other large states which traditionally hold their primaries last in June usually end up having no say in who the presidential candidates will be. The races are usually over by then, and thus the campaigns, the media, and voters have little incentive to participate in these late primaries. As a result, more states vie for earlier primaries to claim a greater influence in the process. However, compressing the primary calendar in this way limits the ability of lesser-known candidates to effectively corral resources and raise their visibility among voters, especially when competing with better-known candidates who have more financial resources and the institutional backing of their party's establishment. Primary and caucus reform proposals include a National Primary held on a single day; or the Interregional Primary Plan, where states would be grouped into six regions, and each of the regions would rotate every election on who would hold their primaries first.

With the primary races usually over before June, the political conventions have mostly become scripted, ceremonial affairs. As the drama has left the conventions, and complaints grown that they were scripted and dull pep rallies, public interest and viewership has fallen off. After having offered gavel-to-gavel coverage of the major party conventions in the mid-20th century, the Big Three television networks now only devote approximately three hours of coverage (one hour per night).

Critics also argue that the Electoral College is archaic and inherently undemocratic. With all states, except Maine and Nebraska, using a winner-take-all system, both the Democratic and the Republican candidates are almost certain to win all the electoral votes from those states whose residents predominantly vote for the Democratic Party or the Republican Party, respectively. This encourages presidential candidates to focus exponentially more time, money, and energy campaigning in a few so-called "swing states", states in which no single candidate or party has overwhelming support. Such swing states like Ohio are inundated with campaign visits, saturation television advertising, get-out-the-vote efforts by party organizers, and debates. Meanwhile, candidates and political parties have no incentive to mount nationwide campaign efforts, or work to increase voter turnout, in predominately Democratic Party "safe states" like California or predominately Republican Party "safe states" like Texas. In practice, the winner-take-all system also both reinforces the country's two-party system and decreases the importance of third and minor political parties.[29] Furthermore, a candidate can win the electoral vote without securing the greatest amount of the national popular vote, such as during the 1824, 1876, 1888, 2000 and 2016 elections. In theory, it is possible to secure the necessary 270 electoral votes from only the eleven most populous states and then ignore the rest of the country.

Proposed changes to the election process

In 1844, Representative Samuel F. Vinton of Ohio proposed an amendment to the constitution that would replace the electoral college system with a lot system. The Joint Resolution called for each state to elect, by a simple majority, a presidential candidate of said state. Each state would notify Congress of the presidential election results. Congress would then inscribe the name of every state on uniform balls, equal to the number of said state's members of Congress, and deposit into a box. In a joint session of Congress, a ball would be drawn, and the elected candidate of the state of which is written on the drawn ball would be named President. A second ball would immediately be drawn after, and that state's candidate would be named Vice-President. The resolution did not pass the House. Representative Vinton proposed an identical amendment in 1846. Again, it was unsuccessful. The driving force behind the introduction of the resolution is unclear, as there is no recorded debate for either proposal.[30]

Other constitutional amendments, such as the Every Vote Counts Amendment, have been proposed seeking to replace the Electoral College with a direct popular vote, which proponents argue would increase turnout and participation. Other proposed reforms include the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, an interstate compact without Congressional authorization, whereby individual participating states agree to allocate their electors based on the winner of the national popular vote, instead of voting their respective statewide results. Another proposal is for every state to simply adopt the District system used by Maine and Nebraska: give two electoral votes to the statewide winner and one electoral vote to the winner of each Congressional district. The Automatic Plan would replace the Electors with an automatic tallying of votes to eliminate the faithless elector affecting the outcome of the election. The Proportional Plan, often compared to the District Plan, would distribute electoral votes in each state in proportion to the popular vote, introducing third party effects in election outcomes. The House Plan would require a constitutional amendment to allocate electors based on the House apportionment alone to lessen small state advantage. Direct election plans and bonus plans have in common a higher valuation on the popular vote for president.[31]

Electoral college results

This is a table of electoral college results. Included are candidates who received at least 1 electoral vote or at least 5% of the popular vote.


1789 Election


1792 Election


1796 Election


1800 Election


1804 Election


1808 Election


1812 Election


1816 Election


1820 Election


1824 Election


1828 Election


1832 Election


1836 Election


1840 Election


1844 Election


1848 Election


1852 Election


1856 Election


1860 Election


1864 Election


1868 Election


1872 Election


1876 Election


1880 Election


1884 Election


1888 Election


1892 Election


1896 Election


1900 Election


1904 Election


1908 Election


1912 Election


1916 Election


1920 Election


1924 Election


1928 Election


1932 Election


1936 Election


1940 Election


1944 Election


1948 Election


1952 Election


1956 Election


1960 Election


1964 Election


1968 Election


1972 Election


1976 Election


1980 Election


1984 Election


1988 Election


1992 Election


1996 Election


2000 Election


2004 Election


2008 Election


2012 Election


2016 Election

Popularvote uspresidentialelections
Popular Vote percentage
1788–89 United States presidential election
Party Candidate Votes %
Independent George Washington 43,782 100%
Federalist John Adams (vice)[note 2] n/a n/a
Federalist John Jay n/a n/a
Federalist Robert H. Harrison n/a n/a
Federalist John Rutledge n/a n/a
Federalist John Hancock n/a n/a
Anti-Administration George Clinton n/a n/a
Federalist Samuel Huntington n/a n/a
Federalist John Milton n/a n/a
Federalist James Armstrong n/a n/a
Federalist Benjamin Lincoln n/a n/a
Anti-Administration Edward Telfair n/a n/a
1792 United States Presidential Election
Party Candidate Votes %
Independent George Washington (incumbent) 28,579 100%
Federalist John Adams (vice) n/a n/a
Democratic-Republican George Clinton n/a n/a
Democratic-Republican Thomas Jefferson n/a n/a
Democratic-Republican Aaron Burr n/a n/a
1796 United States Presidential Election
Party Candidate Votes %
Federalist John Adams 35,726 53.4%
Democratic-Republican Thomas Jefferson (vice) 31,115 46.5%
Democratic-Republican Aaron Burr n/a n/a
Democratic-Republican Samuel Adams n/a n/a
Federalist Oliver Ellsworth n/a n/a
Democratic-Republican George Clinton n/a n/a
Federalist John Jay n/a n/a
Federalist James Iredell n/a n/a
Independent George Washington (incumbent) n/a n/a
Democratic-Republican John Henry n/a n/a
Federalist Samuel Johnston n/a n/a
Federalist Charles Cotesworth Pinckney n/a n/a
1800 United States Presidential Election
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic-Republican Thomas Jefferson/Aaron Burr 41,330 61.4%
Federalist John Adams (incumbent)/Charles Cotesworth Pinckney 25,952 38.6%
Federalist John Adams (incumbent)/John Jay 0 0%
House Vote for President, 1801
0-7 0-0-1 1-0 2-0 4-0-4 3-11 0-4 3-2 6-4 6-4 9-4 0-2 0-0-4 1-0 1-0-1 14-5
State delagations won by Jefferson are collor coded in Green, and Red for Burr. Vote Results listed in that order, with abstentions at end.
1804 United States Presidential Election
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic-Republican Thomas Jefferson (incumbent)/George Clinton 104,110 72.8%
Federalist Charles Cotesworth Pinckney/Rufus King 38,919 27.2%
1808 United States Presidential Election
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic-Republican James Madison/George Clinton 124,732 64.7%
Federalist Charles Cotesworth Pinckney/Rufus King 62,431 32.4%
Democratic-Republican George Clinton/James Madison and James Monroe 0 0%
1812 United States Presidential Election
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic-Republican James Madison/Elbridge Gerry 140,431 50.4%
Democratic-Republican DeWitt Clinton[note 3]/Jared Ingersoll and Elbridge Gerry 132,781 47.6%
1816 United States Presidential Election
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic-Republican James Monroe/Daniel D. Tompkins 76,592 68.2%
Federalist Rufus King/Multiple 34,740 30.9%
1820 United States Presidential Election
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic-Republican James Monroe (incumbent)/Daniel D. Tompkins (incumbent) 87,343 80.6%
Democratic-Republican John Quincy Adams/Richard Rush (Federalist) 0 0%
1824 United States Presidential Election
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic-Republican John Quincy Adams/John C. Calhoun and Andrew Jackson 113,122 30.9%
Democratic-Republican Andrew Jackson/John C. Calhoun 151,271 41.4%
Democratic-Republican William H. Crawford/Multiple 40,856 11.2%
Democratic-Republican Henry Clay/Multiple 47,531 13%

This election was one of the most unique in American History. Several different factions of the Democratic-Republican Party nominated their own cantidates, named after the last names of the cantidates in this race. No cantidate got enough electoral votes, so the House of Representatives chose Quincy Adams to be President.

House Vote for President, 1824
0-3-0 6-0-0 0-0-1 0-0-7 1-0-0 0-3-0 8-4-0 2-1-0 7-0-0 5-3-1 12-1-0 0-1-0 1-0-0 6-0-0 1-5-0 18-2-14 1-1-10 10-2-2 1-25-0 2-0-0 0-9-0 0-9-0 5-0-0 1-1-19
State delagations that Adams won are colored in Green, Blue for Jackson, and Orange for Crawford. Vote Results listed in that order.
1828 United States Presidential Election
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Andrew Jackson/John C. Calhoun 642,553 56.0%
National Republican John Quincy Adams (incumbent)/Richard Rush 500,897 43.6%
1832 United States Presidential Election
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Andrew Jackson (incumbent)/Martin Van Buren 701,780 54.2%
National Republican Henry Clay/John Sergeant 484,205 37.4%
Nullifier John Floyd/Henry Lee 0 0%
Anti-Masonic William Wirt/Amos Ellmaker 100,715 7.8%
1836 United States Presidential Election
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Martin Van Buren/Richard Mentor Johnson 642,553 56.0%
Whig William Henry Harrison/Francis Granger 549,907 36.6%
Whig Hugh L. White/John Tyler 146,107 9.7%
Whig Daniel Webster/Francis Granger 41,201 2.7%
Whig Willie Person Mangum/John Tyler 0 0%
1840 United States Presidential Election
Party Candidate Votes %
Whig William Henry Harrison/John Tyler 1,275,390 52.9%
Democratic Martin Van Buren/Richard Mentor Johnson (incumbent) 1,128,854 46.8%
1844 United States Presidential Election
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic James K. Polk/George M. Dallas 1,339,494 49.5%
Whig Henry Clay/Theodore Frelinghuysen 1,300,004 48.1%
1848 United States Presidential Election
Party Candidate Votes %
Whig Zachary Taylor/Millard Fillmore 1,361,393 47.3%
Democratic Lewis Cass/William Orlando Butler 1,223,460 42.5%
Free Soil Martin Van Buren/Charles Francis Adams Sr. 291,501 10.1%
1852 United States Presidential Election
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Franklin Pierce/William R. King 1,607,510 50.8%
Whig Winfield Scott/William Alexander Graham 1,386,942 43.9%
Free Soil John P. Hale/George Washington Julian 155,210 4.9%
1856 United States Presidential Election
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic James Buchanan/John C. Breckinridge 1,836,072 45.3%
Republican John C. Frémont/William L. Dayton 1,342,345 33.1%
American Millard Fillmore/Andrew Jackson Donelson 873,053 21.6%
1860 United States Presidential Election
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Abraham Lincoln/Hannibal Hamlin 1,865,908 39.8%
Southern Democratic John C. Breckinridge/Joseph Lane 848,019 18.1%
Constitutional Union John Bell/Edward Everett 590,901 12.6%
Democratic Stephen A. Douglas/Herschel V. Johnson 1,380,202 29.5%
1864 United States Presidential Election
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Abraham Lincoln (incumbent)/Andrew Johnson 2,218,388 55.0%
Democratic George B. McClellan/George H. Pendleton 1,812,807 45.0%
1868 United States Presidential Election
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Ulysses S. Grant/Schuyler Colfax 3,013,650 52.7%
Democratic Horatio Seymour/Francis Preston Blair Jr. 2,708,744 47.3%
1872 United States Presidential Election
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Ulysses S. Grant (incumbent)/Henry Wilson 3,598,235 55.6%
Liberal Republican Horace Greeley/Benjamin Gratz Brown 2,834,761 43.8%
1876 United States Presidential Election
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Rutherford B. Hayes/William A. Wheeler 4,034,142 47.9%
Democratic Samuel J. Tilden/Thomas A. Hendricks 4,286,808 50.9%
1880 United States Presidential Election
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican James A. Garfield/Chester A. Arthur 4,446,158 48.3%
Democratic Winfield Scott Hancock/William Hayden English 4,444,260 48.3%
1884 United States Presidential Election
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Grover Cleveland/Thomas A. Hendricks 4,914,482 48.9%
Republican James G. Blaine/John A. Logan 4,856,903 48.3%
1888 United States Presidential Election
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Benjamin Harrison/Levi P. Morton 5,443,892 47.8%
Democratic Grover Cleveland (incumbent)/Allen G. Thurman 5,534,488 48.6%
1892 United States Presidential Election
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Grover Cleveland/Adlai Stevenson I 5,553,898 46%
Republican Benjamin Harrison (incumbent)/Whitelaw Reid 5,190,819 43%
Populist James B. Weaver/James G. Field 1,026,595 8.5%
1896 United States Presidential Election
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican William McKinley/Garret Hobart 7,111,607 51%
Democratic William Jennings Bryan/Arthur Sewall 6,509,052 46.7%
1900 United States Presidential Election
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican William McKinley (incumbent)/Theodore Roosevelt 7,228,864 51.6%
Democratic William Jennings Bryan/Adlai Stevenson I 6,370,932 45.5%
1904 United States Presidential Election
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Theodore Roosevelt (incumbent)/Charles W. Fairbanks 7,630,457 56.4%
Democratic Alton B. Parker/Henry G. Davis 5,083,880 37.6%
1908 United States Presidential Election
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican William Howard Taft/James S. Sherman 7,678,335 51.6%
Democratic William Jennings Bryan/John W. Kern 6,408,979 43%
1912 United States Presidential Election
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Woodrow Wilson/Thomas R. Marshall 6,296,284 41.8%
Progressive Theodore Roosevelt/Hiram Johnson 4,122,721 27%
Republican William Howard Taft (incumbent)/Nicholas Murray Butler 3,486,242 23.2%

Eugene V. Debs/Emil Seidel 901,551 6%
1916 United States Presidential Election
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Woodrow Wilson (incumbent)/Thomas R. Marshall (incumbent) 9,126,868 49.2%
Republican Charles Evans Hughes/Charles W. Fairbanks 8,548,728 46.1%
1920 United States Presidential Election
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Warren G. Harding/Calvin Coolidge 16,114,093 60.3%
Democratic James M. Cox/Franklin D. Roosevelt 9,139,661 34.2%
1924 United States Presidential Election
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Calvin Coolidge (incumbent)/Charles G. Dawes 15,723,789 54%
Democratic John W. Davis/Charles W. Bryan 8,386,242 28.8%
Progressive Robert La Follette/Burton K. Wheeler 4,831,706 16.6%
1928 United States Presidential Election
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Herbert Hoover/Charles Curtis 21,427,123 58.2%
Democratic Al Smith/Joseph Taylor Robinson 15,015,464 40.8%
1932 United States Presidential Election
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Franklin D. Roosevelt/John Nance Garner 22,821,277 57.4%
Republican Herbert Hoover (incumbent)/Charles Curtis (incumbent) 15,761,254 39.7%
1936 United States Presidential Election
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Franklin D. Roosevelt (incumbent)/John Nance Garner (incumbent) 27,752,648 60.8%
Republican Alf Landon/Frank Knox 16,681,862 36.5%
1940 United States Presidential Election
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Franklin D. Roosevelt (incumbent)/Henry A. Wallace 27,313,945 54.7%
Republican Wendell Willkie/Charles L. McNary 22,347,744 44.8%
1944 United States Presidential Election
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Franklin D. Roosevelt (incumbent)/Harry S. Truman 25,612,916 53.4%
Republican Thomas E. Dewey/John W. Bricker 22,017,929 45.9%
1948 United States Presidential Election
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Harry S. Truman (incumbent)/Alben W. Barkley 24,179,347 49.6%
Republican Thomas E. Dewey/Earl Warren 21,991,292 45.1%
Dixiecrat Strom Thurmond/Fielding L. Wright 1,175,930 2.4%
1952 United States Presidential Election
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower/Richard Nixon 34,075,529 55.2%
Democratic Adlai Stevenson II/John Sparkman 27,375,090 44.3%
1956 United States Presidential Election
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower (incumbent)/Richard Nixon (incumbent) 35,579,180 57.4%
Democratic Adlai Stevenson II/Estes Kefauver 26,028,028 42%
Democratic Walter Burgwyn Jones/Herman Talmadge 0 0%
1960 United States Presidential Election
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic John F. Kennedy/Lyndon B. Johnson 34,220,984 49.7%
Republican Richard Nixon/Henry Cabot Lodge Jr. 34,108,157 49.6%
Southern Democratic Harry F. Byrd/Strom Thurmond 610,409 0.4%
1964 United States Presidential Election
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Lyndon B. Johnson (incumbent)/Hubert Humphrey 43,127,041 61%
Republican Barry Goldwater/William E. Miller 27,175,754 38.5%
1968 United States Presidential Election
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Richard Nixon/Spiro Agnew 31,783,783 43.4%
Democratic Hubert Humphrey/Edmund Muskie 31,271,839 42.7%
American Independent George Wallace/Curtis LeMay 9,901,118 13.5%
1972 United States Presidential Election
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Richard Nixon (incumbent)/Spiro Agnew (incumbent) 47,168,710 60.7%
Democratic George McGovern/Sargent Shriver 29,173,222 37.5%
Libertarian John Hospers/Tonie Nathan 3,674 <0.01%
1976 United States Presidential Election
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Jimmy Carter/Walter Mondale 40,831,881 50.1%
Republican Gerald Ford (incumbent)/Bob Dole 39,148,634 48%
Republican Ronald Reagan/Bob Dole 0 0%
1980 United States Presidential Election
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Ronald Reagan/George H. W. Bush 43,903,230 50.7%
Democratic Jimmy Carter (incumbent)/Walter Mondale (incumbent) 35,480,115 41%
Independent John B. Anderson/Patrick Lucey 5,719,850 6.6%
1984 United States Presidential Election
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Ronald Reagan (incumbent)/George H. W. Bush (incumbent) 54,455,472 58.8%
Democratic Walter Mondale/Geraldine Ferraro 37,577,352 40.6%
1988 United States Presidential Election
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican George H. W. Bush/Dan Quayle 48,886,597 53.4%
Democratic Michael Dukakis/Lloyd Bentsen 41,809,476 45.6%
Democratic Lloyd Bentsen/Michael Dukakis 0 0%
1992 United States Presidential Election
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Bill Clinton/Al Gore 44,909,806 43%
Republican George H. W. Bush (incumbent)/Dan Quayle (incumbent) 39,104,550 37.4%
Independent Ross Perot/James Stockdale 19,743,821 18.9%
1996 United States Presidential Election
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Bill Clinton (incumbent)/Al Gore (incumbent) 47,401,185 49.2%
Republican Bob Dole/Jack Kemp 39,197,469 40.7%
Reform Ross Perot/Pat Choate 8,085,294 8.4%
2000 United States Presidential Election
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican George W. Bush/Dick Cheney 50,456,002 47.9%
Democratic Al Gore/Joe Lieberman 50,999,897 48.4%
2004 United States Presidential Election
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican George W. Bush (incumbent)/Dick Cheney (incumbent) 62,040,610 50.7%
Democratic John Kerry/John Edwards 59,028,444 48.3%
Democratic John Edwards/John Edwards 5 <0.01%
2008 United States Presidential Election
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Barack Obama/Joe Biden 69,498,516 52.9%
Republican John McCain/Sarah Palin 59,948,323 45.7%
2012 United States Presidential Election
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Barack Obama (incumbent)/Joe Biden (incumbent) 65,915,795 51.1%
Republican Mitt Romney/Paul Ryan 60,933,504 47.2%
2016 United States Presidential Election
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Donald Trump/Mike Pence 62,979,636 46%
Democratic Hillary Clinton/Tim Kaine 65,844,610 48.1%
Democratic Bernie Sanders/Elizabeth Warren 108,776 0.08%
Republican John Kasich/Carly Fiorina 2,684 <0.01%
Libertarian Ron Paul/Mike Pence (Republican) 124 <0.01%
Republican Colin Powell/Multiple 25 <0.01%
Democratic Faith Spotted Eagle/Winona LaDuke (Green) 0 0%

Voter turnout

Voter turnout in the 2004 and 2008 elections showed a noticeable increase over the turnout in 1996 and 2000. Prior to 2004, voter turnout in presidential elections had been decreasing while voter registration, measured in terms of voting age population (VAP) by the U.S. Census, has been increasing. The VAP figure, however, includes persons ineligible to vote – mainly non-citizens and ineligible felons – and excludes overseas eligible voters. Opinion is mixed on whether this decline was due to voter apathy.[32][33][34][35] or an increase in ineligible voters on the rolls.[36] The difference between these two measures are illustrated by analysis of turnout in the 2004 and 2008 elections. Voter turnout from the 2004 and 2008 election was "not statistically different," based on the voting age population used by a November 2008 U.S. Census survey of 50,000 households.[32] If expressed in terms of vote eligible population (VEP), the 2008 national turnout rate was 61.7% from 131.3 million ballots cast for president, an increase of over 1.6 percentage points over the 60.1% turnout rate of 2004, and the highest since 1968.[37]

Financial disclosures

Prior to 1967, many presidential candidates disclosed assets, stock holdings, and other information which might affect the public trust.[38] In that year, Republican candidate George W. Romney went a step further and released his tax returns for the previous twelve years.[38] Since then, many presidential candidates – including all major-party nominees from 1980 to 2012 – have released some of their returns,[39] although few of the major party nominees have equaled or exceeded George Romney's twelve.[40][41] The Tax History Project – a project directed by Joseph J. Thorndike and established of the nonprofit Tax Analysts group[42] – has compiled the publicly released tax returns of presidents and presidential candidates (including primary candidates).[43]

In 2016, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump broke with tradition, becoming the only major-party candidate since Gerald Ford in 1976 to not make any of his full tax returns public.[44] Trump gave as a reason that he was being audited by the IRS.[44] However, no law or precedent prevents a person from releasing their tax returns while under audit, and in fact President Richard M. Nixon released his tax returns while being audited.[45][46]

Presidential coattails

Presidential elections are held on the same date as those for all the seats in the United States House of Representatives, the full terms for 33 or 34 of the 100 seats in the United States Senate, the governorships in several U.S. states, and many state and local elections. Presidential candidates tend to bring out supporters who then vote for their party's candidates for those other offices.[47] These other candidates are said to ride on the presidential candidates' coattails. Voter turnout is also generally higher during presidential election years than either midterm election years[48] or odd-numbered election years.[49]

Comparison with other U.S. general elections

Basic rotation of U.S. general elections (fixed-terms only[1])
Year 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
Type Presidential Off-yeara Midterm Off-yearb Presidential
President Yes No Yes
Senate Class III (34 seats) No Class I (33 seats) No Class II (33 seats)
House All 435 seats[2] No All 435 seats[3] No All 435 seats[2]
Gubernatorial 11 states, 2 territories
2 states
36 states, 3 territories[4]
3 states
11 states, 2 territories
Other state and local offices Varies
1 This table does not include special elections, which may be held to fill political offices that have become vacant between the regularly scheduled elections.
2 As well as all six non-voting delegates of the U.S. House.
3 As well as five non-voting delegates of the U.S. House. The Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico instead serves a four-year term that coincides with the presidential term.
4 The Governors of New Hampshire and Vermont are each elected to two-year terms. The other 48 state governors and all five territorial governors serve four-year terms.

See also

Statistical forecasts:


  1. ^ Of the 13 original states during the 1789 election, six states chose electors by some form of popular vote, four states chose electors by a different method, North Carolina and Rhode Island were ineligible to participate since they had not yet ratified the U.S. Constitution, and New York failed to appoint their allotment of electors in time because of a deadlock in their state legislature.
  2. ^ Up until 1800, the runner up in a Presidential Election became the Vice President.
  3. ^ While commonly labeled as the Federalist candidate, Clinton technically 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 the endorsement from the New York state Democratic-Republicans as well.


  1. ^ Dixon, Robert G., Jr. (1950). "Electoral College Procedure". The Western Political Quarterly. 3 (2). doi:10.2307/443484. JSTOR 443484.
  2. ^ 3 U.S.C. § 1
  3. ^ Caldwell, Leigh Ann (November 4, 2015). "A Viewer's Guide to the Next Year in Presidential Politics". NBC News. Retrieved November 8, 2015.
  4. ^ Cohen, Andrew (October 29, 2012). "Could a Hurricane Like Sandy Postpone the Presidential Election?". The Atlantic. Retrieved November 8, 2015.
  5. ^ a b c Jose A. DelReal (April 3, 2015). "Why Hillary Clinton might have just two more weeks or so to announce she's running for president". Washington Post. Retrieved April 12, 2015.
  6. ^ Bugh, Gary (2010). Electoral College Reform: Challenges and Possibilities. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. p. 40. ISBN 978-0-7546-7751-2.
  7. ^ Richard A. Epstein, "'In Such Manner as the Legislature Thereof May Direct": The Outcome in Bush v Gore Defended, 68 University of Chicago Law Review 613, 614 (2001).
  8. ^ a b Mary Beth Norton et al., A People and a Nation: A History of the United States, Vol. I (11th ed. 2019), p. 340.
  9. ^ Donald Richard Deskins, Hanes Walton & Sherman C. Puckett, Presidential Elections, 1789–2008: County, State, and National Mapping of Election Data (University of Michigan Press, 2010), p. 117.
  10. ^ Rose, Douglas Dana. "The Ten Most Competitive American Presidential Elections". ResearchGate.
  11. ^ a b Yan, Holly (6 November 2012). "Why Tuesday, why November, why elephants? Election riddles solved". CNN. Retrieved 9 November 2012.
  12. ^ "2016 Presidential Form 2 Filers" (Press release). Federal Election Commission. Retrieved April 12, 2015.
  13. ^ a b "Democratic Detailed Delegate Allocation – 2012". The Green Papers. Retrieved September 8, 2015.
  14. ^ a b "Republican Detailed Delegate Allocation – 2012". The Green Papers. Retrieved September 8, 2015.
  15. ^ Paul, Katie (2008-02-07). "Convention Wisdom". Newsweek.
  16. ^ Eun Kyung Kim (2008-02-10). "Convention Q & A". Gannett News Service. Detroit Free Press.
  17. ^ Clift, Eleanor (2008-02-06). "A Ticking Clock". Newsweek.
  18. ^ Gold, Jeffrey (2008-02-09). "Post-primary questions answered". Associated Press. Courier-Post.
  19. ^ "Sandy unlikely to postpone election". USA Today. Retrieved 31 October 2012.
  20. ^ "Guam Legislature Moves General Election Presidential Vote to the September Primary". Ballot-Access.org. 2008-07-10. Retrieved 2008-09-17.
  21. ^ "Faithless Electors". FairVote.
  22. ^ Montanaro, Domenico (April 23, 2017). "Trump's First 100 Days: An 'Entry-Level' Presidency". NPR. Retrieved August 12, 2017.
  23. ^ International Law, US Power: The United States' Quest for Legal Security, p. 10, Shirley V. Scott (2012)
  24. ^ a b c d e Pollard, Timothy D.; Chesebro, James W.; Studinski, David Paul (2009). "The Role of the Internet in Presidential Campaigns". Communications Studies. 60 (5): 574–88. doi:10.1080/10510970903260418.
  25. ^ a b Endres, Warnick (2004). "Text-based Interactivity in Candidate Campaign Web Sites: A case Study from the 2002 Elections". Western Journal of Communication. 68 (3): 322–42. doi:10.1080/10570310409374804.
  26. ^ Smith, Aaron. "Pew Internet & American Life Project". The Internet and Campaign 2010. Pew Research Center.
  27. ^ a b Bimbaum, Jeffrey (June 11, 2006). "Loophole a Spigot for E-Mail; Critics Fear Voters Will Be Deluged as Fall Elections Near". The Washington Post.
  28. ^ Trent & Friedenberg (2008). Political Campaign Communication Principles & Practices. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
  29. ^ Jerry Fresia (February 28, 2006). "Third Parties?". Zmag.org. Archived from the original on January 9, 2009. Retrieved August 26, 2010.
  30. ^ "House Joint Resolution (H.J. Res.) 8 Proposing a Constitutional Amendment to Elect the President by Lot". National Archives Catalog. Center for Legislative Archives, National Archives and Records Administration.
  31. ^ Melcher, James P., "Electing to Reform: Maine and the District Plan for Selection of Presidential Electors", 2004, New England Political Science Association. viewed October 23, 2014.
  32. ^ a b [1]
  33. ^ "National Voter Turnout in Federal Elections: 1960–1996". Federal Election Commission. 2003-07-29. Archived from the original on 2007-12-09. Retrieved 2007-12-09.
  34. ^ "Election Information: Election Statistics". Office of the Clerk. Archived from the original on July 25, 2007. Retrieved 2007-12-09.
  35. ^ "Voting and Registration Date". U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved 2007-12-09.
  36. ^ "Voter Turnout Frequently Asked Questions". Elections.gmu.edu. March 12, 2009. Archived from the original on 2009-01-22. Retrieved January 24, 2009.
  37. ^ "2008 Preliminary Voter Turnout". Elections.gmu.edu. March 12, 2009. Archived from the original on November 13, 2008. Retrieved January 24, 2009.
  38. ^ a b Income Tax Returns Released for Last 12 Years by Romney, St. Joseph Gazette, United Press International, November 27, 1967.
  39. ^ Shaxson, Nicholas (August 2012). "Where the Money Lives". Vanity Fair.
  40. ^ Sherman, Amy (August 19, 2012), Debbie Wasserman Schultz' claim about release of tax returns of major candidates is false, says PolitiFact Florida Archived 2013-02-23 at the Wayback Machine, Miami Herald.
  41. ^ Robert Farley, Romney and the Tax Return Precedent, FactCheck.org, Annenberg Public Policy Center, July 19, 2012.
  42. ^ About the Project, Tax History Project.
  43. ^ Presidential Tax Returns, Tax History Project.
  44. ^ a b Alan Rappeport, Donald Trump Breaks With Recent History by Not Releasing Tax Returns, New York Times (May 11, 2016).
  45. ^ Jeanne Sahadi, Nixon released his tax returns under audit. Why can't Trump?, CNN Money (May 11, 2016).
  46. ^ Sean Gorman, Tim Kaine correctly notes Richard Nixon released tax returns despite audit, PolitiFact (October 5, 2016).
  47. ^ "Government By the People; national, state, and local version" Prentice Hall publishers, by Cronin Magleby O'Brien Light
  48. ^ Desilver, D. (2014) Voter turnout always drops off for midterm elections, but why? Pew Research Center, July 24, 2014.
  49. ^ "Voter Turnout". FairVote. Retrieved 2001-04-08. Low turnout is most pronounced in off-year elections for state legislators and local officials as well as primaries

Further reading

External links

Statistical forecasts
1928 United States presidential election

The United States presidential election of 1928 was the 36th quadrennial presidential election, held on Tuesday, November 6, 1928. Republican Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover defeated the Democratic nominee, Governor Al Smith of New York. Hoover was the last Republican to win a presidential election until 1952.

After President Calvin Coolidge declined to seek reelection, Hoover emerged as his party's front-runner. As Hoover's intra-party opponents failed to unite around a candidate, Hoover received a large majority of the vote at the 1928 Republican National Convention. The strong state of the economy discouraged some Democrats from running, and Smith was nominated on the first ballot of the 1928 Democratic National Convention. Hoover and Smith had been widely known as potential presidential candidates long before the 1928 campaign, and both were generally regarded as outstanding leaders. Each candidate was a newcomer to the presidential race and presented in his person and record an appeal of unknown potency to the electorate. Each candidate also faced serious discontent within his party membership, and neither had the wholehearted support of his party organization.In the end, the Republicans were identified with the booming economy of the 1920s, whereas Smith, a Roman Catholic, suffered politically from anti-Catholic prejudice, his anti-prohibitionist stance, and his association with the legacy of corruption of Tammany Hall. Hoover won a third straight Republican landslide and made substantial inroads in the traditionally Democratic Solid South, winning several states that had not voted for a Republican since the end of Reconstruction. Hoover's victory made him the first president born west of the Mississippi River, and he is the most recent sitting member of the Cabinet to win a major party's presidential nomination.

1932 United States presidential election

The United States presidential election of 1932 was the thirty-seventh quadrennial presidential election, held on Tuesday, November 8, 1932. The election took place against the backdrop of the Great Depression. Incumbent Republican President Herbert Hoover was defeated in a landslide by Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt, the Governor of New York. The election marked the effective end of the Fourth Party System, which had been dominated by Republicans.

Despite poor economic conditions, Hoover faced little opposition at the 1932 Republican National Convention. Roosevelt was widely considered the front-runner at the start of the 1932 Democratic National Convention, but was not able to clinch the nomination until the fourth ballot of the convention. The Democratic convention chose a leading Southern Democrat, Speaker of the House John Nance Garner of Texas, as the party's vice presidential nominee. Roosevelt united the party around him, campaigning on the failures of the Hoover administration. He promised recovery with a "New Deal" for the American people.

Roosevelt won by a landslide in both the electoral and popular vote, carrying every state outside of the Northeast and receiving the highest percentage of the popular vote of any Democratic nominee up to that time. Hoover had won over 57% of the popular vote in the 1928 presidential election, but saw his share of the popular vote decline to 39.7%. Socialist Party nominee Norman Thomas won 2.2% of the popular vote. Subsequent landslides in the 1934 mid-term elections and the 1936 presidential election confirmed the commencement of the Fifth Party System, which would be dominated by Roosevelt's New Deal Coalition.

1936 United States presidential election

The United States presidential election of 1936 was the thirty-eighth quadrennial presidential election, held on Tuesday, November 3, 1936. In the midst of the Great Depression, incumbent Democratic President Franklin D. Roosevelt defeated Republican Governor Alf Landon of Kansas. Roosevelt won the highest share of the popular and electoral vote since the largely uncontested 1820 election. The sweeping victory consolidated the New Deal Coalition in control of the Fifth Party System.Roosevelt and Vice President John Nance Garner were re-nominated without opposition. With the backing of party leaders, Landon defeated progressive Senator William Borah at the 1936 Republican National Convention to win his party's presidential nomination. The populist Union Party nominated Congressman William Lemke for president.

The election took place as the Great Depression entered its eighth year. Roosevelt was still working to push the provisions of his New Deal economic policy through Congress and the courts. However, the New Deal policies he had already enacted, such as Social Security and unemployment benefits, had proven to be highly popular with most Americans. Landon, a political moderate, accepted much of the New Deal but criticized it for waste and inefficiency.

Although some political pundits predicted a close race, Roosevelt went on to win the greatest electoral landslide since the beginning of the current two-party system in the 1850s. Roosevelt took 60.8% of the popular vote, while Landon won 36.5% and Lemke won just under 2%. Roosevelt carried every state except Maine and Vermont, which together cast eight electoral votes. By winning 523 electoral votes, Roosevelt received 98.49% of the electoral vote total, which remains the highest percentage of the electoral vote won by any candidate since 1820. Roosevelt also won the highest share of the popular vote since 1820, though Lyndon B. Johnson would later win a slightly higher share of the popular vote in the 1964 election.

1944 United States presidential election

The 1944 United States presidential election was the 40th quadrennial presidential election. It was held on Tuesday, November 7, 1944. The election took place during World War II. Incumbent Democratic President Franklin D. Roosevelt defeated Republican Thomas E. Dewey to win an unprecedented fourth term.

Roosevelt had become the first president to win a third term with his victory in the 1940 presidential election, and there was little doubt that he would seek a fourth term. Unlike in 1940, Roosevelt faced little opposition within his own party, and he easily won the presidential nomination of the 1944 Democratic National Convention. However, that convention dropped Vice President Henry A. Wallace as Roosevelt's running mate in favor of Senator Harry S. Truman of Missouri. Governor Dewey of New York emerged as the front-runner for the Republican nomination after his victory in the Wisconsin primary, and he defeated conservative Governor John W. Bricker at the 1944 Republican National Convention.

As World War II was going well for the United States and its Allies, Roosevelt remained popular despite his long tenure. Dewey campaigned against the New Deal and for a smaller government, but was ultimately unsuccessful in convincing the country to change course. The election was closer than Roosevelt's other presidential campaigns, but Roosevelt still won by a comfortable margin in the popular vote and by a wide margin in the Electoral College. Rumors of Roosevelt's ill health, though somewhat dispelled by his vigorous campaigning, proved to be prescient; Roosevelt died less than three months into his fourth term and was succeeded by Truman.

1952 United States presidential election

The 1952 United States presidential election was the 42nd quadrennial presidential election. It was held on Tuesday, November 4, 1952. Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower won a landslide victory over Democrat Adlai Stevenson, ending a string of Democratic Party wins that stretched back to 1932.

Incumbent Democratic President Harry S. Truman had remained silent about whether he would seek another full term, but the unpopular incumbent announced his withdrawal from the race following his defeat in the New Hampshire primary by Tennessee Senator Estes Kefauver. After Truman's withdrawal, the president and other party leaders threw their support behind Stevenson, the moderate Governor of Illinois. Stevenson emerged victorious on the third presidential ballot of the 1952 Democratic National Convention, defeating Kefauver, Senator Richard Russell Jr. of Georgia, and other candidates. The Republican nomination was primarily contested by conservative Senator Robert A. Taft of Ohio and Eisenhower, a general who was widely popular for his leadership in World War II. With the support of Thomas E. Dewey and other party leaders, Eisenhower narrowly prevailed over Taft at the 1952 Republican National Convention. The Republicans chose Richard Nixon, a young anti-Communist Senator from California, as Eisenhower's running mate.

Republicans attacked Truman's handling of the Korean War and the broader Cold War, and alleged that Soviet spies had infiltrated the U.S. government. Democrats faulted Eisenhower for failing to condemn Republican Senator Joe McCarthy and other anti-Communist Republicans who they alleged had engaged in reckless and unwarranted attacks. Stevenson tried to separate himself from the unpopular Truman administration, instead campaigning on the popularity of the New Deal and lingering fears of another Great Depression under a Republican administration.

Eisenhower retained his enormous popularity from the war, as seen in his campaign slogan, "I Like Ike." Eisenhower's popularity and Truman's unpopularity led to a Republican victory, and Eisenhower won 55% of the popular vote. He carried every state outside of the South and won several Southern states that had almost always voted for Democrats since the end of Reconstruction. Republicans also won control of both houses of Congress.

1956 United States presidential election

The 1956 United States presidential election was the 43rd quadrennial presidential election. It was held on Tuesday, November 6, 1956. The popular incumbent President, Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower, successfully ran for re-election. The election was a re-match of 1952, as Eisenhower's opponent in 1956 was Adlai Stevenson, a former Illinois governor whom Eisenhower had defeated four years earlier.

Eisenhower, who had first become famous for his military leadership in World War II, remained widely popular. A heart attack in 1955 provoked speculation that he would not seek a second term, but Eisenhower's health recovered and he was unopposed at the 1956 Republican National Convention. Stevenson remained popular with a core of liberal Democrats, but held no office and had no real base. He defeated Governor W. Averell Harriman and several other candidates on the first presidential ballot of the 1956 Democratic National Convention. Stevenson called for a significant increase in government spending on social programs and a decrease in military spending.

As the country enjoyed peace—Eisenhower had ended the Korean War—and economic growth, few doubted a successful re-election for the charismatic Eisenhower. His voters were less likely to bring up his leadership record. Instead what stood out this time, "was the response to personal qualities—to his sincerity, his integrity and sense of duty, his virtue as a family man, his religious devotion, and his sheer likeableness." The weeks before the election saw two major international crises in the Middle East and Eastern Europe, and Eisenhower's handling of the crises boosted his popularity.

Eisenhower slightly improved upon his 1952 majorities in both the popular and electoral vote. He maintained his 1952 gains among Democrats, especially white urban Southerners and Northern Catholics. Compared to the 1952 election, Eisenhower gained Kentucky, Louisiana, and West Virginia from Stevenson, while losing Missouri. This was the last presidential election before the admissions of Alaska and Hawaii, the last election in which any of the major candidates were born in the 19th century, and the most recent election that was a rematch of a previous election.

1964 United States presidential election

The 1964 United States presidential election was the 45th quadrennial American presidential election. It was held on Tuesday, November 3, 1964. Incumbent Democratic President Lyndon B. Johnson defeated Barry Goldwater, the Republican nominee. With 61.1% of the popular vote, Johnson won the largest share of the popular vote of any candidate since the largely uncontested 1820 election.

Johnson took the office in November 1963 following the assassination of his predecessor, John F. Kennedy. He easily defeated a primary challenge by segregationist Governor George Wallace of Alabama to win nomination to a full term. At the 1964 Democratic National Convention, Johnson also won the nomination of his preferred running mate, Senator Hubert Humphrey of Minnesota. Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona, a leader of his party's conservative faction, defeated moderate Governor Nelson Rockefeller of New York and Governor William Scranton of Pennsylvania at the 1964 Republican National Convention.

Johnson championed his passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and his campaign advocated a series of anti-poverty programs collectively known as the Great Society. Goldwater espoused a low-tax, small government philosophy, and opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Democrats successfully portrayed Goldwater as a dangerous extremist, most famously in the "Daisy" television advertisement. The Republican Party was badly divided between its moderate and conservative factions, with Rockefeller and other moderate party leaders refusing to campaign for Goldwater. Johnson led by wide margins in all opinion polls conducted during the campaign.

Johnson carried 44 states and the District of Columbia, which voted for the first time in this election. Goldwater won his home state and swept the states of the Deep South, most of which had not voted for a Republican presidential candidate since the end of Reconstruction in 1877. Johnson's landslide victory coincided with the defeat of many conservative Republican Congressmen, and the subsequent 89th Congress would pass major legislation such as the Social Security Amendments of 1965 and the Voting Rights Act. Goldwater's unsuccessful bid significantly influenced the modern conservative movement and the long-time realignment within the Republican Party, which culminated in the 1980 presidential victory of Ronald Reagan.

1972 United States presidential election

The 1972 United States presidential election was the 47th quadrennial presidential election. It was held on Tuesday, November 7, 1972. Incumbent Republican President Richard Nixon defeated Democratic Senator George McGovern of South Dakota.

Nixon easily swept aside challenges from two Republican congressmen in the 1972 Republican primaries to win re-nomination. McGovern, who had played a significant role in reforming the Democratic nomination system after the 1968 election, mobilized the anti-war movement and other liberal supporters to win his party's nomination. Among the candidates he defeated were early front-runner Edmund Muskie, 1968 nominee Hubert Humphrey, and Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm, the first African-American to run for a major party's presidential nomination.

Nixon emphasized the strong economy and his success in foreign affairs, while McGovern ran on a platform calling for an immediate end to the Vietnam War, and the institution of a guaranteed minimum income. Nixon maintained a large and consistent lead in polling. Separately, Nixon's reelection committee broke into the Watergate Hotel to wiretap the Democratic National Committee's headquarters, a scandal that would later be known as "Watergate". McGovern's campaign was further damaged by the revelation that his running mate, Thomas Eagleton, had undergone psychiatric electroshock therapy as a treatment for depression. Eagleton was replaced on the ballot by Sargent Shriver.

Nixon won the election in a landslide, taking 60.7% of the popular vote and carrying 49 states, and he was the first Republican to sweep the South. McGovern took just 37.5% of the popular vote, while John G. Schmitz of the American Independent Party won 1.4% of the vote. Nixon received almost 18 million more votes than McGovern, and he holds the record for the widest popular vote margin in any United States presidential election. The 1972 presidential election was the first since the ratification of the 26th Amendment, which lowered the voting age from 21 to 18. Within two years of the election, both Nixon and Vice President Spiro Agnew resigned from office, the former due to Watergate and the latter to a separate corruption charge, and Nixon was succeeded by Gerald Ford.

1976 United States presidential election

The 1976 United States presidential election was the 48th quadrennial presidential election. It was held on Tuesday, November 2, 1976. Democrat Jimmy Carter of Georgia defeated incumbent Republican President Gerald Ford from Michigan. Carter's win represented the lone Democratic victory in a presidential election held between 1968 and 1988.

President Richard Nixon had won the 1972 election with Spiro Agnew as his running mate, but in 1973 Agnew resigned and Ford was appointed as vice president via the 25th Amendment. When Nixon resigned in 1974 in the wake of the Watergate scandal, Ford ascended to the presidency, becoming the only president to have never been elected to national office. He faced a strong challenge from conservative former governor Ronald Reagan of California in the Republican primaries, but Ford narrowly prevailed at the convention. Carter was little-known at the start of the Democratic primaries, but the former governor of Georgia emerged as the front-runner after his victories in the first set of primaries. Campaigning as a political moderate and Washington outsider, Carter defeated opponents such as Jerry Brown and Mo Udall to clinch the Democratic nomination.

Ford pursued a "Rose Garden strategy" in which he sought to portray himself as an experienced leader focused on fulfilling his role as chief executive. Carter emphasized his status as a reformer who was "untainted" by Washington. Saddled with a poor economy, the fall of South Vietnam and his unpopular pardon of Nixon, Ford trailed by a wide margin in polls taken after Carter's formal nomination in July 1976. Ford's polling rebounded after a strong performance in the first presidential debate, and the race was close on election day.

Carter won a majority of the popular and electoral vote. He carried most states in the South and the Northeast while Ford dominated the Western states. Carter remains the only Democratic candidate since 1964 to win a majority of the Southern states. Ford won 27 states, the most states ever carried by a losing candidate. Both of the major party vice presidential nominees, Walter Mondale in 1984 and Bob Dole in 1996, would later win their respective party's presidential nominations, but lose in the general election.

1980 United States presidential election

The 1980 United States presidential election was the 49th quadrennial presidential election. It was held on November 4, 1980. Republican nominee Ronald Reagan defeated incumbent Democrat Jimmy Carter. Due to the rise of conservativism following Reagan's victory, some historians consider the election to be a realigning election that marked the start of the "Reagan Era".

Carter's unpopularity and poor relations with Democratic leaders encouraged an intra-party challenge by Senator Ted Kennedy, a younger brother of former President John F. Kennedy. Carter defeated Kennedy in the majority of the Democratic primaries, but Kennedy remained in the race until Carter was officially nominated at the 1980 Democratic National Convention. The Republican primaries were contested between Reagan, who had previously served as the Governor of California, former Congressman George H. W. Bush of Texas, Congressman John B. Anderson of Illinois, and several other candidates. All of Reagan's opponents had dropped out by the end of the primaries, and the 1980 Republican National Convention nominated a ticket consisting of Reagan and Bush. Anderson entered the race as an independent candidate, and convinced former Wisconsin Governor Patrick Lucey, a Democrat, to serve as his running mate.

Reagan campaigned for increased defense spending, implementation of supply-side economic policies, and a balanced budget. His campaign was aided by Democratic dissatisfaction with Carter, the Iran hostage crisis, and a worsening economy at home marked by high unemployment and inflation. Carter attacked Reagan as a dangerous right-wing extremist and warned that Reagan would cut Medicare and Social Security.

Reagan won the election by a landslide, taking a large majority of the electoral vote and 50.7% of the popular vote. Reagan received the highest number of electoral votes ever won by a non-incumbent presidential candidate. In the simultaneous Congressional elections, Republicans won control of the United States Senate for the first time since 1955. Carter won 41% of the vote but carried just six states and Washington, D.C. Anderson won 6.6% of the popular vote, and he performed best among liberal Republican voters dissatisfied with Reagan. Reagan, then 69, was the oldest person to ever be elected to a first term, until Donald Trump, at 70, was elected in 2016.

1984 United States presidential election

The 1984 United States presidential election was the 50th quadrennial presidential election. It was held on Tuesday, November 6, 1984. Incumbent Republican President Ronald Reagan defeated former Vice President Walter Mondale, the Democratic candidate.

Reagan faced only token opposition in his bid for re-nomination by the Republicans, and he and Vice President George H. W. Bush were easily re-nominated. Mondale defeated Senator Gary Hart and several other candidates in the 1984 Democratic primaries. Mondale chose Congresswoman Geraldine Ferraro of New York as his running mate, making Ferraro the first woman to serve on either major party's national ticket.

Reagan touted a strong economic recovery from the 1970s stagflation and the 1981–82 recession, as well as the widespread perception that his presidency had overseen a revival of national confidence and prestige. The Reagan campaign produced effective television advertising and deftly neutralized concerns regarding Reagan's age. Mondale criticized Reagan's supply-side economic policies and budget deficits, and he called for a nuclear freeze and ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment.

Reagan won 58.8% of the popular vote and carried 49 of the 50 states, becoming the oldest person, at the time, to win a presidential election. Reagan's showing ranks fifth in the share of electoral votes received and fifth in the share of the popular vote won. No candidate since 1984 has equaled Reagan's share of the electoral or popular vote. Mondale received 40.6% of the popular vote, but carried only the District of Columbia and his home state of Minnesota. Reagan also won the highest number of electoral votes of any president thus far.

1988 United States presidential election

The 1988 United States presidential election was the 51st quadrennial United States presidential election. It was held on Tuesday, November 8, 1988. Incumbent Vice President George H. W. Bush, the Republican nominee, defeated Democratic Governor Michael Dukakis of Massachusetts. The 1988 election is the only election since 1948 in which either major party won a third straight presidential election.

Incumbent President Ronald Reagan was ineligible to seek a third term, due to term limits established by the 22nd Amendment to the United States Constitution. With Reagan's support, Bush entered the 1988 Republican primaries as the front-runner. He defeated Senator Bob Dole and televangelist Pat Robertson to win the nomination, and selected Senator Dan Quayle of Indiana as his running mate. Dukakis won the 1988 Democratic primaries after Democratic leaders such as Gary Hart and Ted Kennedy withdrew or declined to run. He selected Senator Lloyd Bentsen of Texas – who had defeated Bush in a U.S. Senate race 18 years earlier – as his running mate.

Running an aggressive campaign, Bush concentrated on the economy and continuing Reagan's policies. He attacked Dukakis as an elitist "Massachusetts liberal", and Dukakis appeared to fail to respond effectively to Bush's criticism. Despite Dukakis's initial lead, Bush pulled ahead in opinion polling conducted in September and won by a substantial margin in both the popular and electoral vote. No candidate since 1988 has managed to equal or surpass Bush's share of the electoral or popular vote. Dukakis won 45.6% of the popular vote and carried ten states and Washington, D.C. Bush became the first sitting vice president to be elected president since Martin Van Buren in 1836.

1992 United States presidential election

The 1992 United States presidential election was the 52nd quadrennial presidential election. It was held on Tuesday, November 3, 1992. Democratic Governor Bill Clinton of Arkansas defeated incumbent Republican President George H. W. Bush, independent businessman Ross Perot of Texas, and a number of minor candidates.

Bush had alienated many of the conservatives in his party by breaking his 1988 campaign pledge against raising taxes, but he fended off a primary challenge from conservative commentator Pat Buchanan. Bush's popularity after his success in the Gulf War dissuaded high-profile Democratic candidates like Mario Cuomo from entering the 1992 Democratic primaries. Clinton, a leader of the centrist Democratic Leadership Council, established himself as the front-runner for the Democratic nomination by sweeping the Super Tuesday primaries. He defeated former & future Governor of California Jerry Brown, former Massachusetts Senator Paul Tsongas, and other candidates to win his party's nomination, and chose Senator Al Gore as his running mate. Billionaire Ross Perot launched an independent campaign, emphasizing his opposition to the North American Free Trade Agreement and his plan to reduce the national debt.

The economy was in recession and Bush's greatest strength, foreign policy, was regarded as much less important following the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War and the relatively peaceful climate in the Middle East after the Gulf War. Perot led in several polls taken in June 1992, but severely damaged his candidacy by temporarily dropping out of the race in July. The Bush campaign criticized Clinton's character and emphasized Bush's foreign policy successes, while Clinton focused on the economy.

Clinton won a plurality in the popular vote and a majority of the electoral vote, breaking a streak of three straight Republican victories. Clinton swept the Northeastern United States, marking the start of Democratic dominance in the region in presidential elections, while also performing well in the Midwest and the West. Along with Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford, Bush is one of three incumbent presidents since World War II to be defeated in the general election. Perot won 18.9% of the popular vote, the highest share of the vote won by a candidate outside of the two major parties since 1912. Although he failed to win any electoral votes, Perot found support in every state, and Clinton's home state of Arkansas was the lone state to give a majority of its vote to any candidate.

1996 United States presidential election

The 1996 United States presidential election was the 53rd quadrennial presidential election. It was held on Tuesday, November 5, 1996. Incumbent Democratic President Bill Clinton defeated former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, the Republican nominee, and Ross Perot, the Reform Party nominee.

Clinton and Vice President Al Gore were re-nominated without incident by the Democratic Party. Numerous candidates entered the 1996 Republican primaries, with Dole considered the early front-runner. Dole clinched the nomination after defeating challenges by publisher Steve Forbes and paleoconservative leader Pat Buchanan. Dole's running mate was Jack Kemp, a former Congressman and football player who had served as the Housing Secretary under President George H. W. Bush. Ross Perot, who had won 18.9% of the popular vote as an independent candidate in the 1992 election, ran as the candidate of the Reform Party. Perot received less media attention in 1996 and was excluded from the presidential debates.

Clinton's chances of winning were initially considered slim in the middle of his term as his party had lost both the House of Representatives and the Senate in 1994 for the first time in decades. He was able to regain ground as the economy began to recover from the early 1990s recession with a relatively stable world stage. Clinton tied Dole to Newt Gingrich, the unpopular Republican Speaker of the House. Dole promised an across-the-board 15% reduction in federal income taxes and attacked Clinton as a member of the "spoiled" Baby Boomer generation. Dole's age was a persistent issue in the election, and gaffes by Dole exacerbated the issue for his campaign.

Clinton maintained a consistent polling edge over Dole, and he won re-election with a substantial margin in the popular vote and the Electoral College. Clinton became the first Democrat since Franklin D. Roosevelt to win two straight presidential elections. Dole won 40.7% of the popular vote and 159 electoral votes, while Perot won 8.4% of the popular vote. Despite Dole's defeat, the Republican Party was able to maintain a majority in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. Turnout was registered at 49.0%, the lowest for a presidential election since 1924.

2000 United States presidential election

The 2000 United States presidential election was the 54th quadrennial presidential election held in the States. It was held on Tuesday, November 7, 2000. Republican candidate George W. Bush, the Governor of Texas and the eldest son of the 41st President George H. W. Bush, won the election by defeating Democratic nominee Al Gore, the incumbent vice president. It was the fourth of five presidential elections in which the winning candidate lost the popular vote, and is considered one of the closest elections in US history.Vice President Gore secured the Democratic nomination with relative ease, defeating a challenge by former Senator Bill Bradley. Bush was seen as the early favorite for the Republican nomination and, despite a contentious primary battle with Senator John McCain and other candidates, secured the nomination by Super Tuesday. Bush chose former Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney as his running mate, while Gore chose Senator Joe Lieberman as his. The left-wing Green Party nominated a ticket consisting of political activists Ralph Nader and Winona LaDuke.

Both major party candidates focused primarily on domestic issues, such as the budget, tax relief, and reforms for federal social insurance programs, although foreign policy was not ignored. Due to Clinton's sex scandal with Monica Lewinsky and subsequent impeachment, Gore avoided campaigning with Clinton. Republicans denounced Clinton's indiscretions, while Gore criticized Bush's lack of experience. On election night, it was unclear who had won, with the electoral votes of the state of Florida still undecided. The returns showed that Bush had won Florida by such a close margin that state law required a recount. A month-long series of legal battles led to the contentious, 5–4 Supreme Court decision of Bush v. Gore, which ended the recount.

With the end of the recount, Bush won Florida by a margin of 0.009%, or 537 votes. The Florida recount and subsequent litigation resulted in a major post-election controversy, and various individuals and organizations have speculated about who would have won the election in various scenarios. Ultimately, Bush won 271 electoral votes, one more than was necessary for the majority, despite Gore receiving 543,895 more votes (0.51% of all votes cast).

2004 United States presidential election

The 2004 United States presidential election was the 55th quadrennial presidential election, held on Tuesday, November 2, 2004. Incumbent Republican President George W. Bush defeated Democratic nominee John Kerry, a United States Senator from Massachusetts.

Bush and incumbent Vice President Dick Cheney were renominated by their party with no difficulty. Former Governor Howard Dean emerged as the early front-runner in the 2004 Democratic primaries, but Kerry won the first set of primaries in January 2004 and clinched his party's nomination in March after a series of primary victories. Kerry chose Senator John Edwards of North Carolina, who had himself sought the party's 2004 presidential nomination, to be his running mate.

Bush's popularity had soared early in his first term after the September 11 attacks, but his popularity declined between 2001 and 2004. Foreign policy was the dominant theme throughout the election campaign, particularly Bush's conduct of the War on Terrorism and the aftermath of the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Bush presented himself as a decisive leader and attacked Kerry as a "flip-flopper", while Kerry criticized Bush's conduct of the Iraq War. Domestic issues were debated as well, including the economy and jobs, health care, abortion, same-sex marriage and embryonic stem cell research.

Bush won by a slim margin, taking 53% or 286 electoral votes. He swept the South and the Mountain States and took the crucial swing states of Ohio, Iowa, and New Mexico. Some aspects of the election process were subject to controversy, but not to the degree seen in the 2000 presidential election. Bush was the first candidate since George H. W. Bush in the 1988 election to also win a majority of the popular vote, as well as the last Republican candidate to have won the popular vote. Bush's victory also marked the first time that the Republican nominee won a presidential election without carrying any state in the Northeastern United States. Bush would serve until 2009 and be succeeded by Barack Obama, whereas Kerry would continue to serve in the Senate and later go on to become the 68th Secretary of State of the United States during Barack Obama's second term.

2008 United States presidential election

The 2008 United States presidential election was the 56th quadrennial presidential election, held on Tuesday, November 4, 2008. The Democratic ticket of Barack Obama, the junior Senator from Illinois, and Joe Biden, the senior Senator from Delaware, defeated the Republican ticket of John McCain, the senior Senator from Arizona, and Sarah Palin, the Governor of Alaska. Obama became the first African American ever to be elected as president.

Incumbent Republican President George W. Bush was ineligible to pursue a third term due to the term limits established by the 22nd Amendment. As neither Bush nor Vice President Dick Cheney sought the presidency, the 2008 election was the first election since 1952 in which neither major party's presidential nominee was the incumbent president or the incumbent vice president. McCain secured the Republican nomination by March 2008, defeating Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, and other challengers. The Democratic primaries were marked by a sharp contest between Obama and the initial front-runner, Senator Hillary Clinton. Clinton's victory in the New Hampshire primary made her the first woman to win a major party's presidential primary. After a long primary season, Obama clinched the Democratic nomination in June 2008.

Early campaigning focused heavily on the Iraq War and Bush's unpopularity. McCain supported the war, as well as a troop surge that had begun in 2007, while Obama strongly opposed the war. Bush endorsed McCain, but the two did not campaign together, and Bush did not appear in person at the 2008 Republican National Convention. Obama campaigned on the theme that "Washington must change," while McCain emphasized his experience. The campaign was strongly affected by the onset of a major financial crisis, which peaked in September 2008. McCain's decision to suspend his campaign during the height of the financial crisis backfired as voters viewed his response as erratic.

Obama won a decisive victory over McCain, winning the Electoral College and the popular vote by a sizable margin, including states that had not voted for the Democratic presidential candidate since 1976 (North Carolina) and 1964 (Indiana and Virginia). Obama received the largest share of the popular vote won by a Democrat since Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964. As of the 2016 presidential election Obama's total count of 69.5 million votes still stands as the largest tally ever won by a presidential candidate.

2012 United States presidential election

The 2012 United States presidential election was the 57th quadrennial American presidential election, held on Tuesday, November 6, 2012. The Democratic nominee, President Barack Obama, and his running mate, Vice President Joe Biden, were elected to a second term. They defeated the Republican ticket of businessman and former Governor Mitt Romney of Massachusetts and Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.

As the incumbent president, Obama secured the Democratic nomination with no serious opposition. The Republicans experienced a competitive primary. Romney was consistently competitive in the polls and won the support of many party leaders, but he faced challenges from a number of more conservative contenders. Romney clinched his party's nomination in May, defeating Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, and several other candidates.

The campaigns focused heavily on domestic issues, and debate centered largely around sound responses to the Great Recession. Other issues included long-term federal budget issues, the future of social insurance programs, and the Affordable Care Act, Obama's marquee legislative program. Foreign policy was also discussed, including the phase-out of the Iraq War, military spending, the Iranian nuclear program, and appropriate counteractions to terrorism. The campaign was marked by a sharp rise in fundraising, including from nominally independent Super PACs.

Obama defeated Romney, winning a majority of both the popular vote and the Electoral College. Obama won 51.1% of the popular vote compared to Romney's 47.2%. Obama was the first incumbent since Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1944 to win reelection with fewer electoral votes and a lower popular vote percentage than had been won in the previous election, and was also the first two-term president since Ronald Reagan to win both his presidential bids with a majority of the nationwide popular vote. This was also the first presidential election since 1944 in which both candidates had no military experience. This is the most recent election in which a Democrat was elected President of the United States, the last time that the popular vote winner was elected President, and the last time a majority of Americans voted for one candidate.

2016 United States presidential election

The 2016 United States presidential election was the 58th quadrennial American presidential election, held on Tuesday, November 8, 2016. The Republican ticket of businessman Donald Trump and Indiana Governor Mike Pence defeated the Democratic ticket of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and U.S. Senator from Virginia Tim Kaine, despite losing the popular vote. Trump took office as the 45th president, and Pence as the 48th vice president, on January 20, 2017.

Trump emerged as the front-runner amidst a wide field of Republican primary candidates, while Clinton defeated Senator Bernie Sanders and became the first female presidential nominee of a major American party. Trump's populist, nationalist campaign, which promised to "Make America Great Again" and opposed political correctness, illegal immigration, and many free-trade agreements, garnered extensive free media coverage. Clinton emphasized her extensive political experience, denounced Trump and many of his supporters as bigots, and advocated the expansion of President Obama's policies; racial, LGBT, and women's rights; and "inclusive capitalism". The tone of the general election campaign was widely characterized as divisive and negative. Trump faced controversy over his views on race and immigration, incidents of violence against protestors at his rallies, and his alleged sexual misconduct, while Clinton's campaign was undermined by declining approval ratings and an FBI investigation of her improper use of a private email server.

Clinton had held the lead in nearly every pre-election nationwide poll and in most swing state polls, leading some commentators to compare Trump's victory to that of Harry S. Truman in 1948 as one of the greatest political upsets in modern U.S. history. While Clinton received 2.87 million more votes nationwide (the largest margin ever for a candidate who lost the electoral college), a margin of 2.1%, Trump won a majority of electoral votes, with a total of 306 electors from 30 states, including upset victories in the pivotal Rust Belt region. Ultimately, Trump received 304 electoral votes and Clinton garnered 227, as two faithless electors defected from Trump and five defected from Clinton. Trump is the fifth person in U.S. history to become president while losing the nationwide popular vote. He is the first president without any prior experience in public service or the military, the oldest at inauguration and is believed by many to be the wealthiest.

The United States government's intelligence agencies concluded on January 6, 2017, that the Russian government had interfered in the elections in order to "undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency". President Trump repeatedly criticized these conclusions, calling the issue a "hoax" and "fake news". Trump has also criticized accusations of collusion between Russia and his campaign, citing a lack of evidence. Investigations regarding such collusion were started by the FBI, the Senate Intelligence Committee, and the House Intelligence Committee. The Special Counsel investigation began in May 2017 and concluded in March 2019 that "the investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities" though it did find 10 “episodes” of potential obstruction.

2020 United States presidential election

The 2020 United States presidential election, scheduled for Tuesday, November 3, 2020, will be the 59th quadrennial U.S. presidential election. Voters will select presidential electors who in turn on December 14, 2020, will either elect a new president and vice president or re-elect the incumbents (In the event that no candidate receives the minimum 270 electoral votes needed to win the election, the United States House of Representatives will select the president, and the United States Senate will select the vice president). The series of presidential primary elections and caucuses are likely to be held during the first six months of 2020. This nominating process is also an indirect election, where voters cast ballots selecting a slate of delegates to a political party's nominating convention, who then in turn elect their party's presidential nominee.

President Donald Trump of the Republican Party, who was elected in 2016, is seeking re-election to a second term. The winner of the 2020 presidential election is scheduled to be inaugurated on January 20, 2021.

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Primaries and caucuses
Nominating conventions
Electoral College
and Popular vote
Related topics

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