Distribution of votes in the 1844 US presidential election

The 15th US presidential election took place in 1844, and saw one of the closest popular votes in US history. The race was contested by James K. Polk of the Democratic Party, and third-time candidate Henry Clay of the Whig Party. This was the first time that the incumbent president did not seek re-election after his first term in office, as President John Tyler did not have the support of a major party, and dropped out of the race when it became apparent that he could not win.

Neither of the major candidates received a majority of popular votes, with Polk and Clay receiving 49.5 and 48.1 percent of the votes respectively, however this translated into a 62 percent share of the electoral votes for Polk, making him the eleventh President of the United States. James Birney of the anti-slavery Liberty Party also received 2.3 percent of the popular votes, particularly in the north, and many scholars have since argued that his role was much larger than thought at the time, as he took votes from Clay in states where he otherwise would have won.

Share of electoral college* and popular votes** in the 15th US presidential election in 1844

Electoral votesPopular votes
James K. Polk61.82%49.5%
Henry Clay38.18%48.1%
James Gillespie Birney0%2.3%
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Release date



United States

Survey time period


Supplementary notes

*Actual number of electoral votes:
James K. Polk - 170
Henry Clay - 105
James Gillespie Birnie - 0

**Actual number of popular votes:
James K. Polk - 1,339,494
Henry Clay - 1,300,004
James Gillespie Birney - 62,103

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