Because the U.S. president is voted into power by the electoral college, successful candidates might not always win the popular vote – i.e. the majority of all votes in the country. Likewise, those receiving a majority of the votes might not always become president. Hillary Clinton and Al Gore are two U.S. presidential candidates who suffered this fate recently, but they are not the only ones.
While presidential election races seem to have gotten more competitive recently, the late 1800s were also a time with many close elections. Presidents Rutherford Hayes (1877-1881) and Benjamin Harrison (1889-1893) both came into office with negative popular vote margins, beating Democratic candidate Samuel J. Tilden and Democratic incumbent president Grover Cleveland, respectively. The most recent race was also a tight one at least historically. Joe Biden beat incumbent Donald Trump with a 4.5 percent margin in the popular vote.
The candidate who had the highest popular vote margin and didn’t become president was Andrew Jackson, who got 10 percent more votes than competitor John Quincy Adams in 1824. Adams ran as a National Republican in 1824, while Jackson became the first Democratic presidential candidate in 1828 and won that election.
All of the five people who have won the popular vote and lost the presidency were Democrats, or in Jackson’s case, on the verge of becoming one.