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Distribution of votes in the 1992 US presidential election

The 1992 US presidential election was contested by incumbent President George H. W. Bush of the Republican Party, the Democratic Party's Bill Clinton, and independent candidate Ross Perot. Bush won his party's re-nomination easily, however the the nature of his opponents (which included David Duke; Grand Wizard of the Klu Klux Klan) pushed him to take a more conservative approach throughout the remainder of his campaign, alienating many moderates in the process. Due to the Bush's popularity following the US' success in the Gulf War, many prominent Democrats decided not to run against him in the 1992 election, which meant that most of the candidates were relatively unknown. There was no clear frontrunner by the time of the first primary elections, but Clinton, despite widespread accusations of an extramarital affair, eventually secured the required number of delegates as the other candidates dropped out.

Campaign

The weakened economy and federal budget deficit led to some dissatisfaction with Bush's administration, and independent billionaire Ross Perot capitalized on the economic concerns of the public by launching his own campaign. In spring 1992, Perot was leading in the polls, with Bush in second place. Shortly after the race began, Perot dropped out as he feared that his involvement would prevent any of the candidates from securing a majority of electoral votes. Clinton, with Al Gore as his running mate, campaigned all over the country, promising to repair the wealth gap that had appeared under the Reagan and Bush administrations. Bush proceeded to repeat the accusations of infidelity against Clinton, as well as highlighting how Clinton dodged the Vietnam War draft. The economic decline, however, meant that Bush's ratings continued to fall, and neither his foreign policy successes nor the end of the Cold War could rescue his numbers. As Clinton moved ahead, Perot re-entered the race, and while his numbers were initially low, his performance in the three-way televised debates saw his ratings increase at Clinton's expense. In the final days of the election, Bush and Perot again began to attack Clinton personally, accusing him of adultery, draft dodging and using drugs (which led to Clinton's famous claim that he had once pretended to smoke marijuana, but did not inhale).

Results

Clinton emerged victorious from the election, winning in 32 states (plus DC) and taking over two thirds of the electoral vote. In spite of his victory, this was the lowest share of the popular vote by a winning candidate since 1912 (which was also a three-way race). Ross Perot's impact was unprecedented, and because of his involvement, only Clinton's home state of Arkansas and Washington DC actually gave the majority of their votes to one candidate (Bush and Perot were both from Texas). Although Perot failed to win any electoral college votes, he won the largest share of the popular vote by any third party candidate since Theodore Roosevelt's tally in 1912. George H. W. Bush was the last president to have been voted out of office after just one term. His son, George W. Bush, would go on to succeed Clinton, with his victory in the 2000 US presidential election.

Share of electoral college* and popular votes** in the 52nd US presidential election in 1992

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Source

Release date

2011

Region

United States

Survey time period

1992

Supplementary notes

*Actual number of electoral votes:
Bill Clinton - 370
George H. W. Bush - 168
Ross Perot - 0

**Actual number of popular votes:
Bill Clinton - 44,909,326
George H. W. Bush - 39,103,882
Ross Perot - 19,741,657

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