Obviously the US presidential election is not won by popular vote, but by votes in the electoral college. This means that, as in the 2016 election, the defeated candidate can obtain a larger total vote share.

With this in mind, what has been the lowest percentage of the vote that a President has been elected on?

A related question: What is the lowest possible share of the vote that a candidate could win the Presidency with; assuming two candidates, with every voter choosing one or the other?

Two answers specific to that question are given here: What is the most someone can lose the popular vote by but still win the electoral college?


1 Answer 1


what has been the lowest percentage of the vote that a President has been elected on?

This has only ever happened 5 times.

John Quincy Adams comes lowest with 30.92% in 1824, but that electoral year was very unusual:

No candidate won a majority of the electoral vote, becoming the only election to require a contingent election in the House of Representatives under the provisions of the 12th Amendment.

If you leave that election aside, the two that stand out are:

  • Trump in 2016 (46.09% of the popular vote, -2.10% margin, 56.30% turnout)
  • Rutherford Hayes in 1876 (47.92%, -3.02%, 81.80% respectively).
  • Wow, I didn’t realise that not winning the popular vote was so rare to be honest; nor the rules about contingent elections.
    – CDJB
    Nov 23, 2019 at 19:40
  • @CDJB The senate-based part of the EC is less than a fifth of the total votes today, so usually the more-or-less population based HoR number is the dominant factor. And one could argue that the membership of the HoR is a lot lower than it really ought to be, which is why the Senate contribution has mattered so much of late, having been fixed at its current size by an act of Congress nearly 100 years ago (and based on data from over 100 years ago). The upper bound the constitution places on the size of the HoR with our current population is nearly 11,000. Nov 23, 2019 at 20:18

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