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Distribution of votes in the 1848 US presidential election

The US presidential election of 1848 was the first US election to be contested on the same day in every state, and it established Tuesday as the statutory day for all future presidential elections in the US. The race was contested by the Whig Party's Zachary Taylor, the Democratic Party's Lewis Cass, and former President Martin van Buren of the newly formed Free Soil Party. Incumbent President James K. Polk did not seek re-election, as he had pledged to serve only one term in his first presidential election campaign (although many historians regard Polk as being among the most effective US presidents of all time).

Van Buren wins it for Taylor?

The election was won by Zachary Taylor, who became the twelfth President of the United States. Taylor received 47 percent of the popular votes, compared to Cass' 43 percent. Despite this difference, both candidates won fifteen states each, however Taylor's states had larger populations, and he therefore received 56 percent of the electoral votes, compared to Cass' 44 percent. Despite former President Van Buren not winning any electoral votes, he did receive over ten percent of the popular votes, with many historians agreeing that these were mostly taken from the Democratic nominee. Therefore, this was the second election in a row where the third party candidate may have taken a significant number of votes that prevented the runner-up from becoming president.

History repeats itself

This victory was the second victory for a candidate from the Whig Party, with the first being that of William Henry Harrison in 1840, and just like Harrison, Taylor passed away while in office, making him the second President of the US to do so (although Taylor served as President for over a year, while Harrison died within a month). Taylor was succeeded by his Vice President Millard Fillmore, who became the thirteenth President of the United States.

Share of electoral college* and popular votes** in the 16th US presidential election in 1848

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Release date



United States

Survey time period


Supplementary notes

*Actual number of electoral votes:
Zachary Taylor - 163
Lewis Cass - 127
Martin Van Buren - 0

**Actual number of popular votes:
Zachary Taylor - 1,361,393
Lewis Cass - 1,223,460
Martin Van Buren - 291,501

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