The United States has had 46 presidents since George Washington's election in 1789. While Washington himself was not affiliated with any political party, and even argued against partisanship (something that the other Founding Fathers agreed with), political differences and personal rivalries between the Founding Fathers eventually led to the founding of the Federalist Party, led by Alexander Hamilton, and the Democratic-Republican Party, led by Thomas Jefferson. Washington's successor, John Adams, was the only Federalist president, before the Democratic-Republicans occupied the White House from 1801 until 1829.
Formation of the Democratic and Republican parties
The 1820s again saw political and personal rivalries lead to a split among the country's leadership, and the Democratic-Republican Party made way for the formation of the Democratic Party and the National Republican Party. The Democratic Party was formed by Andrew Jackson and his supporters, and was traditionally the more conservative of the major political parties in the U.S. until the mid-twentieth century. The National Republican Party was short lived, and eventually amalgamated with the Whig Party in the 1830s, who would go on to be the main opposition to the Democratic Party for the subsequent two decades. Four U.S. presidents belonged to the Whig Party, although it may be important to note that these four men only served a combined eight years in office, as two of them died a short while into their tenure. The issue of slavery was the most dominant and divisive issue in U.S. politics in the mid-nineteenth century, and regional splits emerged in both parties; the rifts did not break apart the Democratic Party, who favored state sovereignty on the issue, whereas the divide in the Whig Party saw it splinter into the right-wing Know Nothing Party in the south, and anti-slavery Republican Party in the north. The 1856 election was the first to feature candidates of both the Democratic and Republican Parties, marking the beginning of the major political rivalry that has dominated U.S. politics for the past 160 years.
Abraham Lincoln became the U.S.' first Republican president with his victory in the 1860 election. From then until 1933, twelve of the U.S.' 16 presidents belonged to the Republican Party, while just four* were from the Democratic Party. Due to the legacy left by the American Civil War, the southern, former-Confederate states were a political stronghold for the Democratic Party, and rarely voted for Republican candidates in presidential elections; in contrast to this, the north, west and newly-admitted states tended to vote Republican. In the 1910s, the Republican Party transitioned into the more ideologically conservative option of the two major parties, and more fiscally conservative following the Great Depression; however, it was not until the Johnson administration in the 1960s, particularly due to matters regarding African-American civil rights, where the core voter bases switched into what is typically expected today. In the past century, there have been ten Republican and nine Democratic presidents (including Joe Biden), with Democrats occupying the White House for roughly 52 of these years. Republican voters in the twenty-first century are generally more conservative and right-leaning in regards to both economic and social issues, whereas Democratic voters tend to be the opposite. There are also strong correlations between political parties and their voters, based on issues such as location, ethnicity, wealth, education and age.
Number of U.S. presidents affiliated with each political party during their time in office from 1789 to 2021
*Grover Cleveland is officially recorded as the 22nd and 24th president of the United States, and has therefore been included twice.
While Republican Abraham Lincoln and Democrat Andrew Johnson ran together on the ticket of the "National Union Party", this was simply a rebranding of the Republican Party and was done to show political unity during the American Civil War; therefore Lincoln has been counted here as a Republican president, and Johnson as a Democratic president.
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ThoughtCo. (January 22, 2021). Number of U.S. presidents affiliated with each political party during their time in office from 1789 to 2021 [Graph]. In Statista. Retrieved December 10, 2023, from https://www.statista.com/statistics/1124563/us-presidents-party-affiliation/
ThoughtCo. "Number of U.S. presidents affiliated with each political party during their time in office from 1789 to 2021." Chart. January 22, 2021. Statista. Accessed December 10, 2023. https://www.statista.com/statistics/1124563/us-presidents-party-affiliation/
ThoughtCo. (2021). Number of U.S. presidents affiliated with each political party during their time in office from 1789 to 2021. Statista. Statista Inc.. Accessed: December 10, 2023. https://www.statista.com/statistics/1124563/us-presidents-party-affiliation/
ThoughtCo. "Number of U.S. Presidents Affiliated with Each Political Party during Their Time in Office from 1789 to 2021." Statista, Statista Inc., 22 Jan 2021, https://www.statista.com/statistics/1124563/us-presidents-party-affiliation/
ThoughtCo, Number of U.S. presidents affiliated with each political party during their time in office from 1789 to 2021 Statista, https://www.statista.com/statistics/1124563/us-presidents-party-affiliation/ (last visited December 10, 2023)
Number of U.S. presidents affiliated with each political party during their time in office from 1789 to 2021 [Graph], ThoughtCo, January 22, 2021. [Online]. Available: https://www.statista.com/statistics/1124563/us-presidents-party-affiliation/