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Hillary Clinton won 487 counties despite winning the popular vote in 2016. But she lost the Electoral College so that doesn't matter.

Did Joe Biden win the fewest counties out of any winning presidential candidate? And how many counties did win?

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    Can you elaborate on your interest in county-level victories? I live in a county of 3.3 million people; the county next door is 181,000; just east of that is a county of 20,000, 1/165 of the population of my county. – jeffronicus Nov 6 '20 at 16:07
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    Is the question limited to just the period when there were the current 50 states (1960 and later)? Because otherwise, the answer might technically be when there were fewer states, which may not be what you intended. – DrSheldon Nov 6 '20 at 21:12
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    1960 and after. My interest in county-level victories is geographic clustering. – Michael Mormon Nov 10 '20 at 16:47
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    Presumably, you mean modern? There were fewer counties in the past ... – Azor Ahai -him- Nov 16 '20 at 14:55
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    @MichaelMormon: Re clustering: Looking at CDJB's answer, compare and contrast the sizes of the counties in California and New Mexico with the counties in Kentucky and Virginia. Unfortunately, the number of counties is a rather poor way of measuring geographic clustering, because of those size disparities. – Kevin Nov 17 '20 at 3:27
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Prior to the 2020 election, the fewest counties won by a successful presidential candidate was 689, or 22.1%, by Barack Obama in 2012 (Source: NBC).

In 2020, Joe Biden won 538 of 3113 counties, or around 17.3%. Biden has, therefore, 'beaten' Obama's record.

Below is a county-level map showing the winner of each county, using data from Fox's feed.

enter image description here

The code & data used in this answer can be found on GitHub.

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  • Where's Alaska? – MJ713 Nov 12 '20 at 20:19
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    @MJ713 unfortunately Fox's feed just reports Alaska as one block, rather than splitting it out. Alaska is a bit tricky because it doesn't really have counties as such, but rather 19 organized boroughs, as well as 10 census areas within one big unorganized borough. – CDJB Nov 13 '20 at 9:08
  • Could you elaborate a bit on the importance of this plot? From a non-US perspective, county counting doesn't seem that an important metric, unless there is some political advantage in winning each individual county, like a "winner takes all" scenario. I would consider the difference in percentage (or votes) over the entire population as much more important, though admittedly not what the question is asking... – user000001 Dec 22 '20 at 7:37
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    @user000001, it's important because some Republicans are looking at the big areas of red and saying "clearly Donald Trump won the election". – Mark Dec 22 '20 at 20:59
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Representing counties' population Another representation of the spread of county votes, but also accounting for population. It reveals that Biden had much fewer sparse counties, but many more populous counties.

2016 for comparison: 2016 Biden had fewer counties than Clinton, but a larger per capita of the population. Depending on what you're looking for, he had the least # of counties, but also the most populous counties in US history.

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