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Distribution of votes in the 1968 US presidential election

The 1968 US presidential election was contested between Richard Nixon of the Republican Party, incumbent Vice-President Hubert Humphrey of the Democratic Party, and George Wallace of the newly-formed American Independent Party (AIP). Incumbent President Lyndon B. Johnson withdrew from the Democratic race due to anti-Vietnam War sentiment across the country, and Robert Kennedy (brother to the former President John F. Kennedy) was one of the frontrunners until his assassination in June, 1968, which cleared the way for Humphrey to win his party's nomination. Richard Nixon (vice president in the Eisenhower administration) faced opposition from Nelson Rockefeller (who had lost in the previous two Republican primaries) and Ronald Reagan who emerged late in the race. Although Reagan was the most popular candidate in the Republican primaries, taking the most popular votes, Nixon's success early in the campaign gave him the required number of delegates to take the Republican nomination. George Wallace ran for the AIP, who were a far-right party seeking to enforce racial segregation in the south.

Campaign

1968 was a tumultuous year in the history of the United States, due to the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy, as well as the riots following King's assassination and the anti-Vietnam War protests across the country (anti-war protests had also marred the Democratic National Convention, which cast a shadow over Humphrey's campaign). Nixon's early strategy was to win over disillusioned Democratic voters, who were against the previous administration's support for civil rights, however Wallace took much of this support in the south, which split the conservative vote and kept Humphrey in the race. Humphrey struggled early on, but he later distanced himself from Johnson's administration (which became increasingly unpopular due to the war), and attacked Wallace's racist and bigoted views, which saw him climb in the polls and narrow Nixon's lead. In a last-ditch attempt to win the election for Humphrey, the Johnson administration rushed through peace talks with Vietnam in Paris, however the Nixon campaign was able to prevent their progress so the Democratic Party could not use them to amass votes before election day.

Results

The results were extremely close, and were not announced until the following day. Wallace's performance saw that neither major party candidate took a majority of the popular vote, although Nixon took a plurality in 32 states, giving him almost 56 percent of the electoral votes and making him the 37th President of the United States. Although Nixon received just 0.7 percent more popular votes than Humphrey, he took over twenty percent more electoral votes, although this pales in comparison to Nixon's winning margin in the 1972 US presidential election. Wallace carried five states in total, which was the last time any third party candidate took more than one electoral vote (as of the 2016 election).

Share of electoral college* and popular votes** in the 46th US presidential election in 1968

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Source

Release date

2011

Region

United States

Survey time period

1968

Supplementary notes

*Actual number of electoral votes:
Richard Nixon - 301
Hubert H. Humphrey - 191
George C. Wallace - 46

**Actual number of popular votes:
Richard Nixon - 31,785,480
Hubert H. Humphrey - 31,275,166
George C. Wallace - 9,906,473

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