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Distribution of votes in the 2012 US presidential election

The 2012 US presidential election was contested between incumbent President Barack Obama of the Democratic Party, and the Republican nominee Mitt Romney. Obama and Vice President Joe Biden were re-nominated by their party with little opposition, while the Republican primaries were much more competitive. Romney emerged as an early frontrunner, but was seen by many in the Republican Party to be too moderate, therefore a number of more conservative candidates were put forward by the party. The large number of candidates spread much of the Republican support to Romney's opponents, and allowed Rick Santorum to surprisingly win in the Iowa caucus and then mount a considerable nationwide campaign. As the primaries progressed, Santorum saw some early gains, even becoming the favorite to win for a short while, but Romney eventually pulled ahead and was named as the Republican nominee. Gary Johnson, one of the early Republican nominees, was the third party candidate with the largest impact, running for the Libertarian Party.


The 2012 campaign focused on economic issues once more, and both camps spent a large share of their resources attacking their opponents in extensive negative TV campaigns, which the candidates were able to afford through record-levels of campaign contributions and donations (most estimates suggest a combined total over two billion dollars was raised in this election). One report claimed that over eighty percent of Obama's and Romney's adverts were negative about their opponent, which many view as a major factor in this election's lower turnout than the previous election. Romney's campaign, and the Republican Party in general, were criticized for being out of touch with female voters, exacerbated by the media's treatment of Romney's "binders full of women" gaff; this was countered by First Lady Michelle Obama's work on the campaign trail and her considerable popularity among female voters. In the weeks before the election, Obama also reversed his stance in favor of gay marriage, and included coverage for contraception and abortion in his Obamacare plans.


Although polls on election day had the candidates level, Obama won re-election comfortably, taking 51 percent of the popular vote and 62 percent of the electoral vote. Romney's share of the electoral vote was just over 38 percent, although he took 47 percent of the popular vote. The remainder of the popular votes were split among several third party candidates, with the Libertarian Party's Gary Johnson taking the largest share (although it was still below one percent), and Jill Stein of the Green Party set a new record for the most votes received by a female candidate. While Romney was popular among white voters, he fared poorly among the Hispanic community; this led to the Republican Party increasing their attempts to connect with Hispanic voters, although these moves angered a significant portion of their base support, which is seen as an influential factor in their selection of Donald Trump in the 2016 election.

Share of electoral college* and popular votes** in the 57th US presidential election in 2012

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Release date



United States

Survey time period


Supplementary notes

*Actual number of electoral votes:
Barack Obama - 332
Mitt Romney - 206

**Actual number of popular votes:
Barack Obama - 65,899,660
Mitt Romney - 60,932,152
Gary Johnson - 1,275,804

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