There have been five United States presidential elections in which the winner lost the popular vote including the 1824 election, which was the first U.S. presidential election where the popular vote was recorded. Losing the popular vote means securing less of the national popular vote than the person who received either a majority or a plurality of the vote.
In the U.S. presidential election system, instead of the nationwide popular vote determining the outcome of the election, the President of the United States is determined by votes cast by electors of the Electoral College. Alternatively, if no candidate receives an absolute majority of electoral votes, the election is determined by the House of Representatives. These procedures are governed by the Twelfth Amendment to the United States Constitution.
When individuals cast ballots in the general election, they are choosing electors and telling them whom they should vote for in the Electoral College. The "national popular vote" is the sum of all the votes cast in the general election, nationwide. The presidential elections of 1876, 1888, 2000, and 2016 produced an Electoral College winner who did not receive the most votes in the general election. In 1824, there were six states in which electors were legislatively appointed, rather than popularly elected, so the true national popular vote is uncertain. When no candidate received a majority of electoral votes in 1824, the election was decided by the House of Representatives. For these two reasons, the 1824 election is distinguishable from the latter four elections, which were held after all states had instituted the popular selection of electors, and in each of which a single candidate won an outright majority of electoral votes, thus becoming president without a contingent election in the House of Representatives. The true national popular vote total was also uncertain in the 1960 election, and the plurality winner depends on how votes for Alabama electors are allocated.
The 1824 presidential election was the first election in American history in which the popular vote mattered, as 18 states chose presidential electors by popular vote in 1824 (six states still left the choice up to their state legislatures). When the final votes were tallied in those 18 states, Andrew Jackson polled 152,901 popular votes to John Quincy Adams's 114,023; Henry Clay won 47,217, and William H. Crawford won 46,979. The electoral college returns, however, gave Jackson only 99 votes, 32 fewer than he needed for a majority of the total votes cast. Adams won 84 electoral votes followed by 41 for Crawford, and 37 for Clay. All four candidates in the election identified with the Democratic-Republican Party.
As no candidate secured the required number of votes (131 total) from the Electoral College, the election was decided by the House of Representatives under the provisions of the Twelfth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Only the top three candidates in the electoral vote were admitted as candidates in this contingent election. Henry Clay, as the candidate with the fewest electoral votes, was eliminated from the deliberation. As Speaker of the House, however, Clay was still the most important player in determining the outcome of the election. The election was held on February 9, 1825, with each state having one vote, as determined by the wishes of the majority of each state's congressional representatives. Adams narrowly emerged as the winner, with majorities of the Representatives from 13 out of 25 states voting in his favor. Most of Clay's supporters, joined by several old Federalists, switched their votes to Adams in enough states to give him the election. Soon after his inauguration as President, Adams appointed Henry Clay as his secretary of state. This result became a source of great bitterness for Jackson and his supporters, who proclaimed the election of Adams a "corrupt bargain," and were inspired to create the Democratic Party.
The 1876 presidential election was one of the most contentious and controversial presidential elections in American history. The result of the election remains among the most disputed ever, although there is no question that Democrat Samuel J. Tilden of New York outpolled Ohio's Republican Rutherford B. Hayes in the popular vote, with Tilden winning 4,288,546 votes and Hayes winning 4,034,311. Tilden was, and remains, the only candidate in American history who lost a presidential election despite receiving a majority (not just a plurality) of the popular vote.
After a first count of votes, Tilden won 184 electoral votes to Hayes' 165, with 20 votes unresolved. These 20 electoral votes were in dispute in four states: in the case of Florida, Louisiana, and South Carolina, each party reported its candidate had won the state, while in Oregon one elector was declared illegal (as an "elected or appointed official") and replaced. The question of who should have been awarded these electoral votes is at the heart of the ongoing debate about the election of 1876.
The Electoral Commission was formed on January 29, 1877 to debate about the 20 electoral votes that were in dispute. At the beginning of March, an informal deal was struck to resolve the dispute: the Compromise of 1877, which awarded all 20 of the disputed electoral votes to Hayes. In return for the Democrats' acquiescence in Hayes' election (who agreed to serve only one four-year term as President without seeking re-election), the Republicans agreed to withdraw federal troops from the South, ending Reconstruction. The Compromise effectively ceded power in the Southern states to the Democratic Redeemers, who went on to pursue their agenda of returning the South to a political economy resembling that of its pre-war condition, including the disenfranchisement of black voters.
In the 1888 election, Grover Cleveland of New York, the incumbent president and a Democrat, tried to secure a second term against the Republican nominee Benjamin Harrison, a former U.S. Senator from Indiana. The economy was prosperous and the nation was at peace, but although Cleveland received 90,596 more votes than Harrison, he lost in the Electoral College. Harrison won 233 electoral votes, Cleveland only 168.
Tariff policy was the principal issue in the election. Harrison took the side of industrialists and factory workers who wanted to keep tariffs high, while Cleveland strenuously denounced high tariffs as unfair to consumers. His opposition to Civil War pensions and inflated currency also made enemies among veterans and farmers. On the other hand, he held a strong hand in the South and border states, and appealed to former Republican Mugwumps.
Harrison swept almost the entire North and Midwest (losing only Connecticut and New Jersey), and narrowly carried the swing states of New York and Indiana (Harrison's home state) by a margin of 1% or less to achieve a majority of the electoral vote. Unlike the election of 1884, the power of the Tammany Hall political machine in New York City helped deny Cleveland the electoral votes of his home state.
The 2000 presidential election pitted Republican candidate George W. Bush (the incumbent governor of Texas and son of former president George H. W. Bush) against Democratic candidate Al Gore (the incumbent Vice President of the United States under Bill Clinton). Despite Gore receiving 543,895 more votes (0.51% of all votes cast), the Electoral College chose Bush as president by a vote of 271 to 266.
Vice President Gore secured the Democratic nomination with relative ease. 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. Many third-party candidates also ran, most prominently Ralph Nader. Bush chose former Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney as his running mate, and Gore chose Senator Joe Lieberman as his. Both major-party candidates focused primarily on domestic issues, such as the budget, tax relief, and reforms for federal social-insurance programs, though foreign policy was not ignored.
The result of the election hinged on voting in Florida, where Bush's narrow margin of victory of just 537 votes out of almost 6 million votes cast on election night triggered a mandatory recount. Litigation in select counties started additional recounts, and this litigation ultimately reached the United States Supreme Court. The Court's contentious decision in Bush v. Gore, announced on December 12, 2000, ended the recounts, effectively awarding Florida's votes to Bush and granting him the victory. Later studies have reached conflicting opinions on who would have won the recount had it been allowed to proceed. Nationwide, George Bush received 50,456,002 votes (47.87%) and Gore received 50,999,897 (48.38%).
The 2016 presidential election featured Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton (former U.S. Senator from New York, Secretary of State, and First Lady to President Bill Clinton) and Republican nominee Donald Trump, a businessman (owner of the Trump Organization) from New York City, who had no prior political experience or service in the military. Both nominees had turbulent journeys in primary races, and were seen unfavorably by the general public. The election saw multiple third-party candidates, and there were over a million write-in votes cast.
During the 2016 election, "pre-election polls fueled high-profile predictions that Hillary Clinton's likelihood of winning the presidency was about 90 percent, with estimates ranging from 71 to over 99 percent." National polls were generally accurate, showing a Clinton lead of about 3% in the national popular vote (she ultimately won the national popular vote by 2.1%). State-level polls "showed a competitive, uncertain contest...but clearly under-estimated Trump's support in the Upper Midwest." Trump exceeded expectations on Election Day by winning the traditionally Democratic Rust Belt states of Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin by narrow margins. Clinton recorded large margins in large states such as California, Illinois and New York, winning California by a margin of nearly 4.3 million votes, while coming closer to winning Texas, Arizona and Georgia than any Democratic nominee since the turn of the millennium, but still losing by a significant margin.  Clinton also won the Democratic medium-sized states such as Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Washington with vast margins. Clinton managed to edge out Trump in Virginia, a swing state where her running mate Tim Kaine had served as Governor. Trump also won the traditional bellwether state of Florida along with the recent battleground state of North Carolina, further contributing to the electoral flip of the popular vote. Trump won by a large margin in Indiana, Missouri, Ohio and Tennessee.
When the Electoral College cast its votes on December 19, 2016, Trump received 304 votes to Clinton's 227 with seven electors defecting to other choices, the most faithless electors (2 from Trump, 5 from Clinton) in any presidential election in over a hundred years. Clinton had nonetheless received almost three million more votes (65,853,514 to 62,984,828) in the general election than Trump, giving Clinton a popular vote lead of 2.1% over Trump.
After the election, Trump falsely claimed that "millions of people" voted illegally and robbed him of a majority of the popular vote. Trump repeated this debunked claim in a meeting with members of Congress in 2017, and in a speech in April 2018.
|Democratic-Republican · DR Democratic · D Republican · R|
|Election||Winner and party||Electoral College||Popular vote[a]||Runner-up and party||Turnout[a]|
|1824||John Quincy Adams||DR||84/261||32.18%||113,122||−38,149||30.92%||−10.44%||Andrew Jackson||DR||26.90%|
|1876||Rutherford B. Hayes||R||185/369||50.14%||4,034,311||−254,235||47.92%||−3.02%||Samuel J. Tilden||D||81.80%|
|1888||Benjamin Harrison||R||233/401||58.10%||5,443,892||−90,596||47.80%||−0.79%||Grover Cleveland||D||79.30%|
|2000||George W. Bush||R||271/538||50.37%||50,456,002||−543,895||47.87%||−0.51%||Al Gore||D||51.20%|
|2016||Donald Trump||R||304/538||55.50%||62,984,828||−2,868,686||46.09%||−2.10%||Hillary Clinton||D||56.30%|
In the 1960 United States presidential election, Democratic candidate John F. Kennedy defeated Republican candidate Richard Nixon. Kennedy is generally considered to have won the popular vote as well, by a narrow margin, but based on the unusual nature of the election in Alabama, political journalists John Fund and Sean Trende have argued that Nixon actually won the popular vote.
Historian and Kennedy associate Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. wrote that, "It is impossible to determine what Kennedy's popular vote in Alabama was" and under one scenario "Nixon would have won the popular vote by 58,000". A third major candidate in the 1960 election was Harry F. Byrd, Sr. who won 15 electoral votes nationwide that year. According to political scientist Steven Schier, "If one divides the Alabama Democratic votes proportionately between the Kennedy and Byrd slates, Nixon ekes out a 50,000 vote popular plurality...." Indeed, Congressional Quarterly calculated the popular vote in this manner at the time of the 1960 election.
In an eleventh-hour compromise between party leaders - considered the "Great Betrayal" by many blacks and southern Republicans ...
The United States presidential election in Alabama, 1960 was held on November 8, 1960, as part of that year's national presidential election. Eleven Democratic electors were elected, of whom six voted for Harry F. Byrd and five for John F. Kennedy.In Alabama, voters voted for electors individually instead of as a slate, as in the other 49 states. There were 22 electors on the ballot, 11 Republicans and 11 Democrats. Voters could vote for up to eleven candidates. As a result of a state primary, the Democratic Party had a mixed slate of electors, five being pledged to Kennedy and the remaining six being unpledged. The highest vote for a presidential elector was 324,050 votes for Frank M. Dixon, who was unpledged; the highest vote for an elector pledged to Kennedy was 318,303 for C. G. Allen, and the highest vote for a Republican elector was 237,981 for Cecil Durham, which was lower than the vote for any Democratic elector. As a result, six unpledged electors and five electors pledged to Kennedy were elected. All six elected unpledged electors cast their vote for Byrd.Varying methods have been used to break down the vote into Kennedy and unpledged votes. One method is to take the 318,303 votes as Kennedy votes and the 324,050 votes as unpledged votes, giving a total much higher than the actual votes cast. Another is to take the 318,303 votes as Kennedy votes and the remainder (5,747 votes) as unpledged votes. A third is to split the 324,050 in the proportion of 5⁄11 to 6⁄11, giving 147,295 votes for Kennedy and 176,755 for unpledged electors. In all cases Richard Nixon has 237,981 votes. If the last method were used, it would mean that Nixon not only won the popular vote in Alabama, but won it nationally.List of United States presidential candidates by number of votes received
Following is a list of United States presidential candidates by number of votes received. Elections have tended to have more participation in each successive election, due to the increasing population of the United States, and, in some instances, expansion of the right to vote to larger segments of society. Prior to the election of 1824, most states did not have a popular vote. In the election of 1824, only 18 of the 24 states held a popular vote, but by the election of 1828, 22 of the 24 states held a popular vote. Minor candidates are excluded if they received fewer than 100,000 votes, or less than .1% of the vote in their election year.List of United States presidential elections by Electoral College margin
The table below is a list of United States presidential elections ordered by margin of victory in the Electoral College vote.List of United States presidential elections by popular vote margin
In a United States presidential election, the popular vote is the total number or percentage of votes cast for a candidate by voters in the 50 states and Washington, D.C.; the candidate who gets the most votes nationwide is said to have won the popular vote. However, the popular vote is not used to determine who is elected as the nation's president or vice president. Thus it is possible for the winner of the popular vote to end up losing the election, an outcome that has occurred on five occasions, most recently in the 2016 election. This is because presidential elections are indirect elections; the votes cast on Election Day are not cast directly for a candidate, but for members of the Electoral College. The Electoral College's electors then formally elect the president and vice president. The Twelfth Amendment to the United States Constitution provides the procedure by which the president and vice president are elected.Politics of the United States
The United States is a federal republic in which the president, Congress and federal courts share powers reserved to the national government, according to its Constitution. The federal government shares sovereignty with the state governments.
The executive branch is headed by the president and is formally independent of both the legislature and the judiciary. The cabinet serves as a set of advisers to the president. They include the vice president and heads of the executive departments. Legislative power is vested in the two chambers of Congress, the Senate and the House of Representatives. The judicial branch (or judiciary), composed of the Supreme Court and lower federal courts, exercises judicial power. The judiciary's function is to interpret the United States Constitution and federal laws and regulations. This includes resolving disputes between the executive and legislative branches. The federal government's structure is codified in the Constitution.
Two political parties, the Democratic Party and the Republican Party, have dominated American politics since the American Civil War, although smaller parties exist such as the Libertarian Party, the Green Party and the Constitution Party. Generally, the Democratic Party is also known as the center-left liberal party within the United States, while the Republican Party is also known as a center-right conservative party.
There are a few major differences between the political system of the United States and that of most other developed democracies. These include greater power in the upper house of the legislature, a wider scope of power held by the Supreme Court, the separation of powers between the legislature and the executive and the dominance of only two main parties. Third parties have less political influence in the United States than in other democratically run developed countries; this is because of a combination of stringent historic controls. These controls take shape in the form of state and federal laws, informal media prohibitions and winner-take-all elections and include ballot access issues and exclusive debate rules. There have been five United States presidential elections in which the winner lost the popular vote.United States' presidential plurality victories
In the United States, Presidential plurality victories are those elections in which the winning candidate received less than 50% of the popular votes cast but the largest share of votes.
The popular vote in an American presidential election was first fully recorded and reported in the election of 1824. Since then, 19 presidential elections have occurred in which a candidate was elected or reelected without gaining a majority of the popular vote. The following is a list and description of
those elections in which a candidate won the election with a plurality of the popular vote. The elections of 1824, 1876, 1888, 2000, and 2016 are not on this list because in those elections the winning candidate actually received less than a plurality.
|Elections by year|
|Elections by state|
|Primaries and caucuses|
and Popular vote