Distribution of votes in the 1996 US presidential election

The 1996 US presidential election saw incumbent President Bill Clinton of the Democratic Party take on Bob Dole of the Republican Party, and Ross Perot of the Reform Party. Clinton and Vice President Al Gore were re-nominated with no significant opposition, however the Republican primaries were much more crowded. Bob Dole was the early favorite for the Party's nomination, however the early primaries saw a strong performance by political commentator Pat Buchanan, throwing Dole's lead into doubt. The Republican leadership then rallied around Dole and campaigned heavily on his behalf, eventually securing the nomination for their preferred candidate, also defeating Steve Forbes, Editor-in-Chief of Forbes Magazine, along the way. Following his strong performance as an independent candidate in the 1992 election, Ross Perot founded the Reform Party and was subsequently nominated as their first presidential candidate.

Campaign

As the Democratic nomination was practically uncontested, Clinton was able to begin his political attacks against Dole quite early, while Dole was still trying to seal the Republican nomination and not in a position to respond. While both candidates attacked one another's age (Clinton was 50, while Dole was 73), Dole's attacks were direct and he frequently pointed to Clinton dodging the Vietnam War draft while highlighting his distinguished service in the Second World War, while Clinton's attacks were more subtle and targeted his "old-fashioned ideas" and "out of touch" policies. The Clinton campaign also faced controversy regarding their finances, and donations received from foreign and religious organizations; while 17 people were eventually convicted for fraud, this did little to derail Clinton's momentum.

Results

Clinton won re-election comfortably, after maintaining a healthy lead in the polls throughout the campaign. Although Clinton took just under fifty percent of the popular vote, Dole took just 41 percent, which gave Clinton more than seventy percent of the electoral vote. Ross Perot took more than eight percent of the popular vote, but none of the electoral vote. This election was the first time an incumbent Democratic President won re-election since Roosevelt's victory in 1944, while voter turnout was at it's lowest ever for a presidential election since 1924. Two years into his second term, Clinton became the second President of the United States to be impeached by the House of Representatives, under charges of lying under oath and obstruction of justice, although he was then acquitted by the senate.

Share of electoral college* and popular votes** in the 53rd US presidential election in 1996

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Source

Release date

2011

Region

United States

Survey time period

1996

Supplementary notes

*Actual number of electoral votes:
Bill Clinton - 379
Bob Dole - 159
Ross Perot - 0

**Actual number of popular votes:
Bill Clinton - 45,590,703
Bob Dole - 37,816,307
Ross Perot - 7,866,284

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