59 Presidential Elections

I. Introduction

The chart below shows the candidates, popular votes, electoral votes, and the five times a candidate won despite losing the popular vote in all 59 US presidential elections.

Democrats (party founded in 1828) are shown in blue and Republicans (party founded in 1854) in red. Elections in early US history are shown in black when no party equivalent could be determined.

Four of the five candidates in history who won the presidency while losing the popular vote were Republicans (Hayes in 1876, Harrison in 1888, Bush in 2000, and Trump in 2016). The first time a candidate won the presidency with fewer popular votes, John Quincy Adams in 1824, neither the Democratic nor Republican parties had been founded. [1]Popular vote totals are not available for elections prior to 1824, and even when those totals subsequently started being reported, some states still chose electors in the state legislatures and … Continue reading

The five elections in which the popular vote winner did not win the presidency represent 8.5% of all US presidential elections. Of the 59 presidential elections since 1789, 54 of those elections (91.5%) were won by the candidate with the most popular votes.

 

II. Fifty-Nine US Presidential Elections, 1789-2020

A.
Election
B.
Dem vs. Rep Candidate
C.
Popular Vote in Millions
(% of pop. vote)
D.
Electoral Votes
E.
Candidate won with fewer popular votes
1. 1789George Washington - ran uncontestedNot available [2]1789: Prior to 1824, the majority of states selected electors in the state legislature rather than by popular vote.69 [3]1789: Each of 69 eligible electors cast two votes. George Washington was elected unanimously with a vote from each elector. New York cast no votes because the state legislature couldn’t agree on … Continue reading
2. 1792George Washington (Federalist) - ran uncontestedNot available132 [4]1792: Each elector cast two votes. Three electors did not vote.
3. 1796Thomas Jefferson (Dem-Rep) v. John Adams (Federalist)Not available68 v. 71 = 139 [5] 1796: Each elector cast two votes, and the second-highest vote recipient became vice president. Thirteen people received electoral votes. Even though there were 138 members of the Electoral … Continue reading
4. 1800Thomas Jefferson (Dem-Rep) v. John Adams (Federalist)Not available73 v. 65 + Oth = 138 [6]1800: Electors didn’t distinguish between president and vice president in their votes, so Thomas Jefferson and his running mate Aaron Burr both got 73 electoral votes and the decision went to the … Continue reading
5. 1804Thomas Jefferson (Dem-Rep) v. Charles Cotesworth Pinckney (Federalist)Not available162 v. 14 = 176
6. 1808James Madison (Dem-Rep) v. Charles Cotesworth Pinckney (Federalist)Not available122 v. 47 + Oth = 176 [7]1808: Six faithless electors voted for George Clinton (Independent Democratic Republican) and one elector didn’t vote due to illness.
7. 1812James Madison (Dem-Rep) v. DeWitt Clinton (Federalist)Not available128 v. 89 + Oth = 218 [8]1812: One elector did not vote.
8. 1816James Monroe (Dem-Rep) v. Rufus King (Federalist)Not available183 v. 34 + Oth = 221 [9]1816: Four electors did not vote.
9. 1820James Monroe (Dem-Rep) - ran uncontestedNot available231 + Oth = 235 [10]1820: Last uncontested US Presidential election; one elector didn’t want a unanimous election, so he voted for John Quincy Adams; three electors did not vote.
10. 1824Andrew Jackson (Dem-Rep) [11]Andrew Jackson is listed as Democratic-Republican in the election results but he co-founded the Democratic Party in 1828, so this chart marks him in blue. v. John Quincy Adams (Dem-Rep)0.151 v. 0.113
(41.4% v. 30.9%)
99 v. 84 + Oth = 261 [12]1824: Four candidates all ran as Democratic-Republicans. Henry Clay received 37 electoral votes and William H. Crawford received 41 electoral votes.John Quincy Adams [13]1824: Since no candidate had enough electoral votes to win, the House of Representatives selected John Quincy Adams as president even though he had fewer popular votes and fewer electoral votes than … Continue reading
11. 1828Andrew Jackson (Dem-Rep) v. John Quincy Adams (National Republican)0.643 v. 0.501
(56.0% v. 43.6%)
178 v. 83 = 261
12. 1832Andrew Jackson v. Henry Clay (National Republican) [14]Henry Clay formed the Whig party to counter Jacksonian Democrats in the 1830s; this resource therefore marks Clay in red to denote correlation with the Republican party.0.702 vs. 0.484
(54.2% v. 37.4%)
219 v. 49 + Oth = 288 [15]1832: William Wirt (Anti-Masonic party) received 7 electoral votes and John Floyd (Independent) received 11 electoral votes. Two electors didn’t vote because of illness.
13. 1836Martin Van Buren v. William Henry Harrison (Whig) [16]The Whigs were formed to counter Jacksonian Democrats; this resource therefore marks Whigs in red.0.764 v. 0.551
(50.8% v. 36.6%)
170 v. 73 + Oth = 294 [17]1836: Hugh L. White (26 electoral votes) and Daniel Webster (14 electoral votes) also ran as Whig party. W.P. Mangum’s party is listed as Anti-Jackson, Independent, and Whig by various sources; he … Continue reading
14. 1840Martin Van Buren v. William Henry Harrison (Whig)1.13 v. 1.28
(46.8% v. 52.9%)
60 v. 234 = 294
15. 1844James K. Polk v. Henry Clay (Whig)1.34 v. 1.30
(49.5% v. 48.1%)
170 v. 105 = 275 [18]There are fewer electoral votes in 1844 (275) than in 1840 (294) because the number of seats in the House of Representatives decreased following apportionment from the 1840 census.
16. 1848Lewis Cass v. Zachary Taylor (Whig)1.22 v. 1.36
(42.5% v. 47.3%)
127 v. 163 = 290 [19]There are fewer electoral votes in 1848 (290) than in 1840 (294) because the number of seats in the House went down following the 1840 census.
17. 1852Franklin Pierce vs. Winfield Scott (Whig)1.61 v. 1.39
(50.8% v. 43.9%)
254 v. 42 = 296
18. 1856James Buchanan v. John C. Frémont1.84 v. 1.34
(45.3% v. 33.1%)
174 v. 114 + Oth = 296 [20]1856: Millard Fillmore (Whig-American/Know-Nothing party) received 8 electoral votes.
19. 1860Stephen A. Douglas v. Abraham Lincoln1.38 v. 1.87
(29.5% v. 39.85)
12 v. 180 + Oth = 303 [21]1860: Southern Democratic John C. Breckinridge received 847,953 popular votes (18.1%) but won 72 electoral votes; Constitutional Union candidate John Bell received 39 electoral votes.
20. 1864George B. McClellan v. Abraham Lincoln1.81 v. 2.22
(44.9% v. 55.1%)
21 v. 212 = 233 [22]Eleven states (Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia) didn’t participate because they had seceded from the … Continue reading
21. 1868Horatio Seymour v. Ulysses S. Grant2.71 v. 3.01
(47.3% v. 52.7%)
80 v. 214 = 294 [23]Former Confederate states Mississippi, Texas, and Virginia weren’t restored to the Union in time to vote in the election.
22. 1872Horace Greeley v. Ulysses S. Grant2.84 v. 3.60
(43.8% v. 55.6%)
Zero v. 286 + Oth = 352 [24]Greeley died after the election but before the electoral college was decided. Three electors still voted for Greeley but they were not counted by Congress. The remaining 63 electoral votes he would … Continue reading
23. 1876Samuel J. Tilden v. Rutherford B. Hayes4.29 v. 4.03
(51.0% v. 48.0%)
84 v. 185 = 369Rutherford B. Hayes [25]1876: Democrat Tilden was leading the popular vote in early election returns, but fell one electoral vote short of the required 185. The electoral votes of Florida, Louisiana, Oregon, and South … Continue reading
24. 1880Winfield Scott Hancock v. James A. Garfield4.445 v. 4.454
(48.2% v. 48.3%)
155 v. 214 = 369
25. 1884Grover Cleveland v. James G. Blaine4.92 v. 4.85
(48.9% v. 48.2%)
219 v. 182 = 401
26. 1888Grover Cleveland v. Benjamin Harrison5.54 v. 5.45
(48.6% v. 47.8%)
168 v. 233 = 401Benjamin Harrison [26]1888: Grover Cleveland won the popular vote by 89,293, but Harrison won the electoral vote and became president by winning New York by 14,373 votes. Significant vote buying and voter fraud in this … Continue reading
27. 1892Grover Cleveland v. Benjamin Harrison5.55 v. 5.19
(46.0% v. 43.0%)
277 v. 145 + Oth = 444 [27]James B. Weaver received 22 electoral votes.
28. 1896William Jennings Bryan [28]Bryan was nominated by the Democrat and Populist parties, which had the same slates of electors in some states but not in others. v. William McKinley6.37 v. 7.11
(45.8% v. 51.2%)
176 v. 271 = 447
29. 1900William Jennings Bryan v. William McKinley6.36 v. 7.22
(45.5% v. 51.7%)
155 v. 292 = 447
30. 1904Alton B. Parker v. Theodore Roosevelt5.08 v. 7.63
(37.6% v. 56.4%)
140 v. 336 = 476
31. 1908William Jennings Bryan v. William Howard Taft6.41 v. 7.68
(43.1% v. 51.6%)
162 v. 321 = 483
32. 1912Woodrow Wilson v. William Howard Taft v. Theodore Roosevelt (Progressive)6.29 v. 3.49 v. 4.12
(41.8% v. 23.2% v. 27.4)
435 v. 8 v. 88 = 531
33. 1916Woodrow Wilson v. Charles Evans Hughes9.13 v. 8.55
(49.2% v. 46.1%)
277 v. 254 = 531
34. 1920James M. Cox v. Warren G. Harding9.13 v. 16.15
(34.1% v. 60.3%)
127 v. 404 = 531
35. 1924John W. Davis v. Calvin Coolidge8.39 v. 15.72
(28.8% v. 54.0%)
136 v. 382 = 531 [29]1924: Robert M. La Follette received 13 votes.
36. 1928Alfred E. Smith v. Herbert Hoover15.01 v. 21.44
(40.8% v. 58.2%)
87 v. 444 = 531
37. 1932Franklin D. Roosevelt v. Herbert Hoover22.83 v. 15.76
(57.4% v. 39.6%)
472 v. 59 = 531
38. 1936Franklin D. Roosevelt v. Alfred M. Landon27.76 v. 16.68
(60.8% v. 36.5%)
523 v. 8 = 531
39. 1940Franklin D. Roosevelt v. Wendell L. Willkie27.31 v. 22.35
(54.7% v. 44.8%)
449 v. 82 = 531
40. 1944Franklin D. Roosevelt v. Thomas E. Dewey25.61 v. 22.02
(53.4% v. 45.9%)
432 v. 99 = 531
41. 1948Harry S. Truman v. Thomas E. Dewey24.18 v. 21.99
(49.6% v. 45.1%)
303 v. 189 + Oth = 531 [30]1948: Strom Thurmond received 39 electoral votes.
42. 1952Adlai E. Stevenson v. Dwight D. Eisenhower27.31 v. 33.94
(44.4% v. 55.1%)
89 v. 442 = 531
43. 1956Adlai E. Stevenson v. Dwight D. Eisenhower26.02 v. 35.59
(42.0% v. 57.4%)
73 v. 457 + Oth = 531 [31]1956: One faithless elector voted for Walter Burgwyn Jones.
44. 1960John F. Kennedy v. Richard M. Nixon34.23 v. 34.11
(49.7% v. 49.6%)
303 v. 219 + Oth = 537 [32]1960: One faithless elector and 14 unpledged electors cast electoral votes for Harry Byrd.
45. 1964Lyndon B. Johnson v. Barry M. Goldwater43.13 v. 27.18
(61.2% v. 38.5%)
486 v. 52 = 538
46. 1968Hubert H. Humphrey v. Richard M. Nixon31.28 v. 31.79
(42.7% v. 43.4%)
191 v. 301 + Oth = 538 [33]1968: George Wallace received 46 electoral votes as a third party candidate.
47. 1972George S. McGovern v. Richard M. Nixon29.17 v. 47.17
(37.5% v. 60.7%)
17 v. 520 + Oth = 538 [34]1972: One faithless elector cast an electoral vote for John Hospers, the Libertarian candidate.
48. 1976Jimmy Carter v. Gerald R. Ford40.83 v. 39.15
(50.1% v. 48.0%)
297 v. 240 + Oth = 538 [35]1976: One faithless elector cast an electoral vote for Ronald Reagan.
49. 1980Jimmy Carter v. Ronald W. Reagan35.48 v. 43.90
(41.0% v. 50.8%)
49 v. 489 = 538
50. 1984Walter F. Mondale v. Ronald W. Reagan37.58 v. 54.46
(40.6% v. 58.8%)
13 v. 525 = 538
51. 1988Michael S. Dukakis v. George H.W. Bush41.81 v. 48.89
(45.7% v. 53.4%)
111 v. 426 + Oth = 538 [36]1988: One faithless elector cast an electoral vote for the Democratic vice presidential candidate to draw attention to the fact that members of the electoral college were not required to vote for the … Continue reading
52. 1992Bill Clinton v. George H.W. Bush44.91 v. 39.10
(43.0% v. 37.5%)
370 v. 168 = 538
53. 1996Bill Clinton v. Bob Dole47.40 v. 39.20
(49.2% v. 40.7%)
379 v. 159 = 538
54. 2000Al Gore v. George W. Bush50.99 v. 50.46
(48.3% v. 47.9%)
266 v. 271 + Oth = 538 [37]2000: An elector in DC abstained.George W. Bush
55. 2004John Kerry v. George W. Bush59.03 v. 62.04
(48.3% v. 50.7%)
286 v. 251 + Oth = 538 [38]2004: One faithless elector cast an electoral vote for John Edwards in what is believed to have been an error.
56. 2008Barack Obama v. John McCain69.50 v. 59.95
(52.9% v. 45.7%)
365 v. 173 = 538
57. 2012Barack Obama v. Mitt Romney65.92 v. 60.93
(51.1% v. 47.2%)
332 v. 206 = 538
58. 2016Hillary Clinton v. Donald Trump65.85 v. 62.98
(48.2% v. 46.1%)
227 v. 304 + Oth = 538 [39]2016: Seven faithless electors cast electoral votes for Bernie Sanders (1), Ron Paul (1), John Kasich (1), Colin Powell (3), and Faith Spotted Eagle (1).Donald Trump
59. 2020Joe Biden v. Donald Trump81.28 v. 74.22
(51.3% v. 46.9%)
306 v. 232 = 538
A.
Election
Dem vs. Rep CandidateC.
Popular Vote in Millions
(% of pop. vote)
D.
Electoral Votes
E.
Candidate won with fewer popular votes

Source: Election results in the chart are from CQ Press, ”Presidential General Election, All States, 1789-2016 Summary,” CQ Voting and Elections Collection, library.cqpress.com, 2020

Footnote Sources:

1. 270 to Win, “1868 Presidential Election,” 270towin.com (accessed Dec. 3, 2020)
2. S.J. Ackerman, “The Vote That Failed,” smithsonianmag.com, Nov. 1998
3. The American Presidency Project, “Statistics: Data Archive – Elections,” presidency.ucsb.edu (accessed Dec. 2, 2020)
4. Ballotpedia, “Democratic Party,” ballotpedia.org (accessed Dec. 4, 2020)
5. Ballotpedia, “Republican Party,” ballotpedia.org (accessed Dec. 4, 2020)
6. Encyclopedia Britannica, “United States Presidential Election Results,” britannica.com (accessed Dec. 1, 2020)
7. Fair Vote, “Faithless Electors,” fairvote.org, July 6, 2020
8. History.com Editors, “Democratic Party,” history.com, Oct. 11, 2019
9. House of Representatives, “The Electoral Vote Count of the 1876 Presidential Election,” history.house.gov (accessed Dec. 3, 2020)
10. Library of Congress, “Presidential Election of 1800: A Resource Guide,” loc.gov (accessed Dec. 3, 2020)
11. Library of Congress, “Presidential Elections, 1789 to 1920: Resource Guides,” loc.gov (accessed Dec. 3, 2020)
12. Margaret A. Hogan, “John Quincy Adams: Life in Brief,” millercenter.org (accessed Dec. 3, 2020)
13. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), “What is the Electoral College?,” archives.org, Dec. 23, 2019
14. National Popular Vote, “5 of 45 Presidents Came into Office Without Winning the National Popular Vote,” nationalpopularvote.com
(accessed Dec. 1, 2020)
15. Ronald G. Shafer, “The ugliest presidential election in history: Fraud, voter intimidation and a backroom deal,” washingtonpost.com, Nov.
24, 2020
16. SUNY OER Services, “Rise of the Whigs,” courses.lumenlearning.com (accessed Dec. 3, 2020)
17. James Traub, “The Ugly Election That Birthed Modern American Politics,” national geographic.com, Dec. 2016
18. US Census Bureau, “Apportionment Legislation 1790 – 1830,” census.gov (accessed Dec. 15, 2020)
19. US Census Bureau, “Apportionment Legislation 1840 – 1880,” census.gov (accessed Dec. 15, 2020)

References

1 Popular vote totals are not available for elections prior to 1824, and even when those totals subsequently started being reported, some states still chose electors in the state legislatures and therefore did not contribute to the popular vote (see 1824). Other early elections were marred by fraud and voter suppression (see 1876 and 1888).
2 1789: Prior to 1824, the majority of states selected electors in the state legislature rather than by popular vote.
3 1789: Each of 69 eligible electors cast two votes. George Washington was elected unanimously with a vote from each elector. New York cast no votes because the state legislature couldn’t agree on electors; Rhode Island and North Carolina did not vote because they hadn’t ratified the US Constitution.
4 1792: Each elector cast two votes. Three electors did not vote.
5 1796: Each elector cast two votes, and the second-highest vote recipient became vice president. Thirteen people received electoral votes. Even though there were 138 members of the Electoral College, the two main candidates received a total of 139 votes (71 for Adams + 68 for Jefferson). No reason for this discrepancy is provided in government records.
6 1800: Electors didn’t distinguish between president and vice president in their votes, so Thomas Jefferson and his running mate Aaron Burr both got 73 electoral votes and the decision went to the House of Representatives. The Federalist majority did not want to vote for Jefferson and so Congress voted over 30 times with no one reaching a majority. The deadlock was finally broken when some Federalists submitted blank ballots and Jefferson won the presidency.
7 1808: Six faithless electors voted for George Clinton (Independent Democratic Republican) and one elector didn’t vote due to illness.
8 1812: One elector did not vote.
9 1816: Four electors did not vote.
10 1820: Last uncontested US Presidential election; one elector didn’t want a unanimous election, so he voted for John Quincy Adams; three electors did not vote.
11 Andrew Jackson is listed as Democratic-Republican in the election results but he co-founded the Democratic Party in 1828, so this chart marks him in blue.
12 1824: Four candidates all ran as Democratic-Republicans. Henry Clay received 37 electoral votes and William H. Crawford received 41 electoral votes.
13 1824: Since no candidate had enough electoral votes to win, the House of Representatives selected John Quincy Adams as president even though he had fewer popular votes and fewer electoral votes than Andrew Jackson. In the 1824 election, 18 states had switched to the system of choosing electors by popular vote, while six states still let the state legislature choose. Since six states didn’t hold popular elections, including New York, the most populous state in the 1820 census, the 1824 recorded popular vote totals are not an accurate representation of the entire nation.
14 Henry Clay formed the Whig party to counter Jacksonian Democrats in the 1830s; this resource therefore marks Clay in red to denote correlation with the Republican party.
15 1832: William Wirt (Anti-Masonic party) received 7 electoral votes and John Floyd (Independent) received 11 electoral votes. Two electors didn’t vote because of illness.
16 The Whigs were formed to counter Jacksonian Democrats; this resource therefore marks Whigs in red.
17 1836: Hugh L. White (26 electoral votes) and Daniel Webster (14 electoral votes) also ran as Whig party. W.P. Mangum’s party is listed as Anti-Jackson, Independent, and Whig by various sources; he received 11 electoral votes.
18 There are fewer electoral votes in 1844 (275) than in 1840 (294) because the number of seats in the House of Representatives decreased following apportionment from the 1840 census.
19 There are fewer electoral votes in 1848 (290) than in 1840 (294) because the number of seats in the House went down following the 1840 census.
20 1856: Millard Fillmore (Whig-American/Know-Nothing party) received 8 electoral votes.
21 1860: Southern Democratic John C. Breckinridge received 847,953 popular votes (18.1%) but won 72 electoral votes; Constitutional Union candidate John Bell received 39 electoral votes.
22 Eleven states (Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia) didn’t participate because they had seceded from the Union.
23 Former Confederate states Mississippi, Texas, and Virginia weren’t restored to the Union in time to vote in the election.
24 Greeley died after the election but before the electoral college was decided. Three electors still voted for Greeley but they were not counted by Congress. The remaining 63 electoral votes he would have gotten were split among others.
25 1876: Democrat Tilden was leading the popular vote in early election returns, but fell one electoral vote short of the required 185. The electoral votes of Florida, Louisiana, Oregon, and South Carolina were in disputed until an advisory committee recommended that Congress give those states to Republican Hayes. Significant election fraud and suppression of Black voters, many of whom were Republicans, indicate that the popular vote totals may not be accurate in this election.
26 1888: Grover Cleveland won the popular vote by 89,293, but Harrison won the electoral vote and became president by winning New York by 14,373 votes. Significant vote buying and voter fraud in this election may have led to inaccurate popular vote totals. Many votes were still cast publicly, a practice that lent itself to vote buying. A scandal in Indiana in this election helped usher in the practice of voting in secret.
27 James B. Weaver received 22 electoral votes.
28 Bryan was nominated by the Democrat and Populist parties, which had the same slates of electors in some states but not in others.
29 1924: Robert M. La Follette received 13 votes.
30 1948: Strom Thurmond received 39 electoral votes.
31 1956: One faithless elector voted for Walter Burgwyn Jones.
32 1960: One faithless elector and 14 unpledged electors cast electoral votes for Harry Byrd.
33 1968: George Wallace received 46 electoral votes as a third party candidate.
34 1972: One faithless elector cast an electoral vote for John Hospers, the Libertarian candidate.
35 1976: One faithless elector cast an electoral vote for Ronald Reagan.
36 1988: One faithless elector cast an electoral vote for the Democratic vice presidential candidate to draw attention to the fact that members of the electoral college were not required to vote for the candidates to whom they were pledged.
37 2000: An elector in DC abstained.
38 2004: One faithless elector cast an electoral vote for John Edwards in what is believed to have been an error.
39 2016: Seven faithless electors cast electoral votes for Bernie Sanders (1), Ron Paul (1), John Kasich (1), Colin Powell (3), and Faith Spotted Eagle (1).