Can a president win the electoral college and lose the popular vote

  • Let me preface this by saying I'm not American (I'm British).

    Last chance I got to look at the figures Hillary is amazingly close (<100k votes) behind Trump. But I realise that irrespective of how many votes she gets from here on Trump has won. So my question is:

    Has there ever been an elected president who was not first by measure of popular vote (not needing 50%, just more than anyone else)?

    I'm assuming there's not a long since forgotten rule that makes this an important question, but it's interesting none the less.

    In addition: Hillary currently has 0.6% more votes than Trump, according to the popular vote.

    Just for the record, it's happened in the UK that a government has been elected with a plurality of MPs but not of voters:,_1951 . This possibility is an inevitable consequence of picking a government by a majority of regional contests rather than a single election.

    The electoral college has not yet voted. We are anticipating that they will vote for Trump, but if Trump were to die before then, the electors would be unbounded and could even vote for me - if they felt I was the most qualified candidate to be president. In that case, the winner of the electoral college would not have received a single popular vote.

    **Yes.** A more in-depth answer can be found at Also, it appears to have just happened again in the 2016 US Presidential election, with Hillary Clinton winning the popular vote and Donald Trump winning the electoral vote.

    You might like this video and this video. CPBGray looks at how to become president by winning a mere *20%* of the popular vote.

  • Panda

    Panda Correct answer

    5 years ago

    There sure have been a few instances of this occurring.

    2000 Election

    • This's the one that many people still remember. Gore won the popular vote by 0.51% while Bush won the electoral college. The tight margin in Florida automatically triggered a recount. Ultimately, a court case stopped the recount and Bush became President.

    It has also occurred in the 19th century -- 1824, 1876, and 1888 -- though they aren't that well known.

    However, it doesn't actually matter since only the electoral college counts.

    With this happening before, it isn't unprecedented if it happens again this year. The NYT does forecast Clinton to win the popular vote by around 1.2%.

    It must be mentioned that, after the court case stopped the recount, one of the big newspaper chains paid for a complete, precinct-by-precinct recount of the entire state of Florida. They were hoping to prove that Gore in fact had won, and the court stole the election. Unfortunately, the final result was not to their liking: it turned out that Bush won Florida, fair and square.

    @JohnR.Strohm "Fair and square" is an interesting assessment, given all the other shady things going on around there. I don't think it's so easy to assume the Bush campaign didn't have a hand in influencing which voters were struck from the register.

    @Samthere: *I don't think it's so easy to assume the Bush campaign didn't have a hand in influencing which voters were struck from the register.* Any reason to think any more so than the Gore campaign?

    @loneboat Well, definitely more reason than for the Gore campaign - many individuals unable to vote were in demographics more likely to favour Gore, and Florida required those convicted in other states to request the restoration of their rights to vote. This was at the discretion of the Governor, Bush's brother. I don't have all the details but there's absolutely more reason to think one way. The main point is that I don't think absence of a particular kind of underhanded tactic is enough to say that any major politician is acting "fair and square".

    Fair is a four letter word, and an f-word. It is best used in environments where one would use other f-words or four letter words.

    @JohnR.Strohm: Citation please. claims that if there had been a recount of all ballots statewide, that Gore would have won. It also says that using the methodology that the Democrats were proposing (and implementing) that was blocked by the Supreme Court, that Bush would have won.

    @nelruk where do you get that info from? wikipedia indicates that JFK won by >100K votes nationwide in 1960...

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Content dated before 7/24/2021 11:53 AM