Presidential Elections through the ages
I came across this webpage that collects electoral information on every presidential election in our nation’s history on one page. Complete with maps. That’s pretty handy for comparing information. Here’s some quick back of the envelope observations:
The presidency been won with greater than 60% of the vote nine times:
- Thomas Jefferson in 1800 with 61.4%
- Thomas Jefferson in 1804 with 72.8%
- James Madison in 1808 with 64.7%
- James Monroe in 1816 with 68.2%
- James Monroe in 1820 with 80.6% (!)
- Warren G. Harding in 1920 with 60.3%
- Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1936 with 60.8%
- Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964 with 61.1%
- Richard Nixon in 1972 with 60.7%
Of the 55 presidential elections we have had, 17 have been won with less than 50% of the vote.
Of the 55 presidential elections we have had, 23 have been won with less then a 10% difference in the popular vote between the winner and his opponent. The closest being:
- James Garfield in 1880 by 3.5%
- Grover Cleveland in 1884 by 3.3%
- James Madison in 1812 by 2.8%
- George Bush in 2004 by 2.4%
- James K. Polk in 1844 by 2.4%
- Jimmy Carter in 1976 by 2.1%
- John F. Kennedy in 1960 by .7%
Other close popular vote elections are three of the times the Electoral College trumped the popular vote:
- In 1888 the difference was 3.6%
- In 2000 the difference was 3.7%
- In 1876 the difference was 3.1%
The other time that the winner did not receive the popular vote was John Quincy Adams in the 1824 election. That election shows us why it’s good to have only two large parties to avoid the mess going to the house.
Usually elections the Electoral College is not even close with the difference usually in the hundreds. The odd close ones being:
- 1796 by 3 points
- 1800 by 8 points
- 1824 by 15 points
- 1876 by 1 point
- 1916 by 23 points
- 2000 by 5 points
- 2004 by 34 points
It’s interesting. Kennedy is one of the presidents who won with less than 50% of the vote and with a difference in the popular vote of .7%, but he won the Electoral College by 82 points. That is still a close call electorally speaking. The mythology about the man never mentions that his election is among the closest elections our nation has ever had. Had he lived I’m sure Goldwater would have beaten him soundly.
Both of Bush’s elections have been really close, both in terms of popular vote and the Electoral College. I’ve known they were close elections, but I did not realize how close they were, historically speaking.
Fun fact: Did you know that the only president to ever win 100% of the electoral vote was George Washington for both terms? And Washington didn’t win all the states his first term. John Adams won two states, but all his delegates apparently voted for Washington.