Distribution of votes in the 1984 US presidential election

The 50th United States presidential election took place in 1984, and was contested by the incumbent President Ronald Reagan of the Republican Party, and former Vice President Walter F. Mondale of the Democratic Party. Reagan faced no genuine competition for the Republican nomination, and was re-nominated comfortably, with George H. W. Bush again as his running mate. Mondale, who had been Carter's vice president, was the favorite to win the Democratic nomination when the race began, but faced strong opposition from civil rights leader Jesse Jackson, and Colorado Senator Gary Hart. Jackson was the first African American to launch a nationwide campaign and have a realistic chance at winning; he even won several of the earlier primaries, until some offensive comments he made about the Jewish community were made public and derailed his campaign. The race between Mondale and Hart was officially undecided by the time of the Democratic National Convention (DNC), however Mondale received the support of the majority of superdelegates, and was named as the Democratic candidate. Mondale's running mate was Geraldine Ferraro, who became the first female candidate of a major party to be named on the ballot. Interestingly, this was the first time Joe Biden's name appeared on a ballot (at the DNC), although he received just one vote.

Campaign

Reagan and Bush campaigned effectively, and used a mixture of metaphorical and on-the-nose messages to great effect in their TV campaigns. When a stream of Reagan's gaffs caused his age to be called into question, Reagan famously said "I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent's youth and inexperience," effectively negating the issue. Mondale's campaign enjoyed initial success, and he ran on a liberal platform in favor of ending the Cold War and advocated for the Equal Rights Act (a topic that has re-emerged in recent years following the Me Too movement). It was Mondale's choice of running mate that caused the largest amount of damage to his campaign, as Ferraro proved to be unpopular among female voters, and when allegations of her husband's financial misconduct and involvement in illegal activities came to the fore, this caused irreversible damage to Mondale's campaign (although Ferraro later released evidence disproving these accusations).

Results

Ronald Reagan won 49 out of fifty states, while Mondale took just his home state of Minnesota (although Reagan did win five of Minnesota's eight congressional districts) and Washington DC; this returned almost 98 percent of the electoral votes for Reagan. In the popular vote, Reagan took under 59 percent, while Mondale took almost 41 percent (there was no significant impact by any third party candidate). This was the largest electoral victory for any Republican candidate in US history, and the second largest contested victory behind the 1932 presidential election. Commentators attribute Reagan's landslide victory to "Reagan Democrats"; the millions of traditionally Democratic voters who became disillusioned by Mondale's extreme liberalism, while being impressed by the Reagan administration's handling of foreign policy and the country's economic recovery.

Share of electoral college* and popular votes** in the 50th US presidential election in 1984

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Source

Release date

2011

Region

United States

Survey time period

1984

Supplementary notes

*Actual number of electoral votes:
Ronald Reagan - 525
Walter F. Mondale - 13

**Actual number of popular votes:
Ronald Reagan - 54,455,075
Walter F. Mondale - 37,577,185

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