5 of 45 Presidents Came into Office Without Getting the Most Votes Nationwide

Of the 58 presidential elections between 1789 and 2016, there have been five elections in which the candidate with the most popular votes nationwide did not win the presidency. The rate of such occurrences is about one in 12.

In 2016, Donald Trump became President even though Hillary Clinton won the national popular vote by 2,868,518 votes. Trump won because he carried Michigan by 11,000 votes, Wisconsin by 23,000 votes, and Pennsylvania by 44,000 votes. Each of these 78,000 votes was 36 times more important than the 2,868,518 votes cast in other states.

In 2000, George W. Bush became President even though Al Gore won the national popular vote by 537,179 votes. Bush won because he carried Florida by 537 votes. Each of these 537 votes was 1,000 times more important than the 537,179 votes cast in other states.

Similarly, in 1888, 1876, and 1824, the candidate who received the most popular votes did not become President.

Year

National popular vote winner

Popular votes received by national popular vote winner

Person who became President

Popular votes received by person who became President

Popular vote difference

1824

Andrew Jackson

151,271

John Q. Adams

113,122

38,149

1876

Samuel Tilden

4,288,191

Rutherford B. Hayes

4,033,497

254,694

1888

Grover Cleveland

5,539,118

Benjamin Harrison

5,449,825

89,293

2000

Al Gore

50,992,335

George W. Bush

50,455,156

537,179

2016

Hillary Clinton

65,853,652

Donald Trump

62,985,134

2,868,518

 

In addition, there have been six presidential elections between 1900 and 2016 in which a shift of a relatively small number of votes in one or two states would have elected a presidential candidate who lost the popular vote nationwide.

In 1824, John Quincy Adams became President even though Andrew Jackson received the most popular votes nationwide.

In 1876, Rutherford B. Hayes became President even though Samuel J. Tilden won the national popular vote.

In 1888, Benjamin Harrison became President even though President Grover Cleveland won the national popular vote.

In 2000, George W. Bush became President even though Al Gore won the national popular vote by 537,179 votes.  Bush won because he carried Florida by 537 votes.

In 2016, Donald Trump became President even though Hillary Clinton won the national popular vote by 2,868,518 votes. Trump won because he carried Michigan by 11,000 votes, Wisconsin by 23,000 votes, and Pennsylvania by 44,000 votes. 

Year

National popular vote winner

Vote lead

Electoral votes

Popular vote shift that would have changed the outcome

2004

Bush

3,319,608

286

59,393 in Ohio

1976

Carter

1,682,970

297

5,559 in Ohio and 3,687 in Hawaii

1968

Nixon

510,645

301

10,245 in Missouri and 67,481 in Illinois

1960

Kennedy

114,673

303

4,430 in Illinois and 4,782 in South Carolina

1948

Truman

2,135,570

303

3,554 in Ohio and 8,933 in California

1916

Wilson

579,024

277

1,711 in California