Currently there's a lot of discussion about Trump's vagueness when reporters ask him whether he would peacefully transfer his power to Joe Biden if he were to lose the election. Thus far Trump has not yet directly said he would honor the results of the election if he does not win, and in fact he's been repeatedly stating that a victory for Joe Biden would likely be due to voter fraud.

Has any US president before Trump ever expressed anything less than a full willingness to accept the results of an election?

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    Disagree. I think an edit replacing "...been vague in this manner ..." with "...ever expressed anything less than a full willingness to accept the results of an election..." or something similar would help al lot. I don't think the question means to be hypothetical at all. It's a "has this happened?" question. The only hypothetical question is the reporter's inferred question to the president.
    – uhoh
    Sep 27, 2020 at 3:51
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    uhoh has explained my question. I'm asking whether there's any historical precedent to this situation, similar to many other questions on this stack.
    – Nzall
    Sep 27, 2020 at 12:59
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    @Burt_Harris I am not sure it is hypothetical as Trump has said many times that the only way he will lose if the election is rigged.
    – Joe W
    Sep 28, 2020 at 1:25
  • To clarify, the question asked by reporters was hypothetical. I assert that a non-committal answer ("we'll see") to a hypothetical question is not unusual or newsworthy. Sep 29, 2020 at 18:10

1 Answer 1



However no one ever asked that question of a sitting president until 2016 (EDIT: 2020), so the sample size is essentially one.

And while a sitting President has never expressed this, there have been a number of Presidential hopefuls or their supporters that have disparaged or at least contested results.


In 1824, Jackson lost to Adams in the House contingency election, despite having more popular and electoral votes. Jackson and his supporter called it the "corrupt bargain" and throughout Adams's term, attacked him as an illegitimate President.


This election saw widespread violence, fraud, and other illegitimate assault on democracy. Democrats lost by one vote and threats were made against Hayes' life.

Tilden never conceded defeat:

I can retire to public life with the consciousness that I shall receive from posterity the credit of having been elected to the highest position in the gift of the people, without any of the cares and responsibilities of the office.


In 2000, Gore conceded the election, and then revoked his concession.

He and Bush then fought a bitter legal battle for weeks over the Florida vote, involving multiple recounts and eventually the Supreme Court. Gore disagreed with the conclusion, but accepted it.

Let there be no doubt: While I strongly disagree with the court's decision, I accept it. I accept the finality of this outcome which will be ratified next Monday in the Electoral College. And tonight, for the sake of our unity of the people and the strength of our democracy, I offer my concession.


In 2016, a number of prominent scientists and lawyers discovered statistical anomalies in the vote. Citing their evidence, Green Party candidate Jill Stein filled for recounts in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. #Recount2016.

The DNC filed a federal lawsuit claiming foreign tampering in the 2016 election:

In the run-up to the 2016 election, Russia mounted a brazen attack on American Democracy.

Russia then used this stolen information to advance its own interests: destabilizing the U.S. political environment, denigrating Democratic presidential nominee, and supporting the campaign of Donald J. Trump


Democrats claimed Trump conspired with Russia to upend American democracy and win:

Over the course of the last year we have seen, I think, a mountain of evidence of collusion between the campaign and the Russians to basically affect our democracy - DNC Chairman Perez


In 2020, previous candidate Clinton said of then candidate Biden:

Joe Biden should not concede under any circumstances because I think this is going to drag out, and eventually I do believe he will win if we don't give an inch and if we are as focused and relentless as the other side is.


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    This answer largely ignores the question. The question is not about what the challenger will do but the sitting president. You dismiss the question in your opening statement, claiming that, "No one ever asked that question before 2016." You need to expand on that, the rest is irrelevant. And if that question was asked in 2016, then the sample size is two, not one. Sep 28, 2020 at 6:24
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    @GeoffAtkins, no one asked the sitting president in 2016 (perhaps because he himself was ineligible to be elected again). It's frankly a very uncommon question to ask in the first place. I added the examples of dispute that did exist to give more than a two sentences answer, but feel free to stop at the first part. Sep 28, 2020 at 7:41
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    He could still have contested the vote, not for his own sake but that of the candidate from his party. Sep 28, 2020 at 7:46
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    @GeoffAtkins, yes but as I said, no one asked him if he would and he didn't explicitly volunteer that information (again, because it's such an uncommon thing to wonder about). Sep 28, 2020 at 8:15

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