Share of electoral and popular votes by runner up in US elections 1824-2016

The electoral college system is used to determine the outcome of the presidential elections every four years in the United States. Generally, this means that the winner of the popular vote in most states (excluding Maine and Nebraska) is then allocated a that state's allocation of electoral votes, and the candidate with the most electoral college votes is declared president. Because of this, the candidate with the most overall votes may not necessarily become president, and this has happened in five elections since 1824. In 1876, Samuel J. Tilden was the first candidate to win an outright majority but lose the election, as Rutherford B. Hayes won 50.14 percent of the electoral college votes (despite only receiving 48 percent of the popular vote). More recently, in 2000 and 2016, Al Gore and Hillary Clinton won the respective popular votes, however lost due to the electoral college. The largest difference occurred in 1872, however this was because Horace Greeley died after the popular vote, but before the electoral vote, therefore his electoral votes were spread among the candidates. Other largest difference in the last fifty years was in 1984, when Walter Mondale received over forty percent of the popular vote, yet Ronald Reagan received almost 98 percent of the electoral votes.

Share of electoral college and popular votes from each runner-up in United States presidential elections from 1824 to 2016

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Release date



United States

Survey time period

1824 to 2016

Supplementary notes

*Served as president during another term.

**Roosevelt was the only third-party candidate to be runner up in a U.S. presidential election. Incumbent President William Howard Taft* received 1.51% of the popular vote, and 23.2% of the popular vote.

***Greeley died after the popular vote was cast, but before electors cast their ballots; most electors cast ballots for other people, and any electoral votes for Greeley were rejected.

Percentage of Electoral College votes calculated using data from Encyclopedia Britannica.

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Statistics on "2012 U.S. election part II voter and candidate"

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