In a United States presidential election, the popular vote is the total number or percentage of votes cast for a candidate by voters in the 50 states and Washington, D.C.; the candidate who gets the most votes nationwide is said to have won the popular vote. However, the popular vote is not used to determine who is elected as the nation's president or vice president. Thus it is possible for the winner of the popular vote to end up losing the election, an outcome that has occurred on five occasions, most recently in the 2016 election. This is because presidential elections are indirect elections; the votes cast on Election Day are not cast directly for a candidate, but for members of the Electoral College. The Electoral College's electors then formally elect the president and vice president.
The Twelfth Amendment to the United States Constitution currently provides the procedure by which the president and vice president are elected; electors vote separately for each office. Prior to its enactment, electors cast two votes for president, and the winner and runner up became president and vice-president respectively.
The appointment of electors is a matter for each state's legislature to determine; in 1872 and all elections since 1880, all states have used a popular vote to do so.
The table below is a list of United States presidential elections by popular vote margin. It is sorted to display elections by their presidential term / year of election, name, margin by percentage in popular vote, popular vote, margin in popular vote by number, and the runner up in the Electoral College.
|Parties: Democratic-Republican • Democratic • Republican • Whig • Progressive • Liberal Republican • National Republican • Federalist • Independent|
|Vote outcomes: Winner did not receive a majority of the popular vote • Winner did not receive a majority of the popular vote and lost the popular vote • Winner chosen by the House of Representatives|
|Election||Winner & party||Electoral College||Popular vote||Runner-up & party||Turnout|
|1||1788–89||George Washington||Ind.||69/69||100.00%||100.00%||100.00%||43,782||43,782||No candidate||None[Note 1]||11.6%|
|2||1792||George Washington||Ind.||132/132||100.00%||100.00%||100.00%||28,579||28,579||No candidate||None[Note 1]||6.3%|
|3||1796||John Adams||Fed.||71/138||51.45%||53.45%||6.90%||35,726||4,611||Thomas Jefferson||D.-R.[Note 2]||20.1%|
|4||1800||Thomas Jefferson||D.-R.||73/138||52.90%||61.43%||22.86%||41,330||15,378||Aaron Burr||D.-R.[Note 3]||32.3%|
|5||1804||Thomas Jefferson||D.-R.||162/176||92.05%||72.79%||45.58%||104,110||65,191||Charles C. Pinckney||Fed.||23.8%|
|6||1808||James Madison||D.-R.||122/175||69.72%||64.73%||32.33%||124,732||62,301||Charles C. Pinckney||Fed.||36.8%|
|7||1812||James Madison||D.-R.||128/217||58.99%||50.37%||2.74%||140,431||7,650||DeWitt Clinton||D.-R.[Note 4]||40.4%|
|8||1816||James Monroe||D.-R.||183/217||84.33%||68.16%||37.24%||76,592||41,852||Rufus King||Fed.||23.5%|
|9||1820||James Monroe||D.-R.||231/232||99.57%||80.61%||64.69%||87,343||69,878||John Quincy Adams||D.-R.[Note 5]||10.1%|
|10||1824||John Quincy Adams||D.-R.||84/261||32.18%||30.92%||−10.44%||113,142||−38,221||Andrew Jackson||D.-R.[Note 6]||26.9%|
|Parties: Democratic-Republican • Democratic • Republican • Whig •