Sunday, December 18, 2016

Election: The Popular Vote Says. . .

What does the popular vote tell us about who wins the White House?  It’s a serious question when so many millions in the aftermath of Hillary Clinton’s loss believe she should be president because she won a popular vote plurality over her Republican opponent.

There have been eight elections since the Reagan era, four won by Republicans, four by Democrats (bold in my chart above, click to enlarge).  In all eight, the winner gained an electoral vote majority. In half the elections, the winner also gained a popular vote majority.  No popular vote majority winner failed to win the electoral college.

Close elections are the norm. Most candidates running between 1988 and 2016 received a minority of the popular votes in a narrow range between 46% and 49% (see chart).  That group includes three winners and six losers, five Democrats and four Republicans.

Hillary Clinton is in this group, along with her winning husband and accompanied by three other Democrats, who like Hillary were losers.  Donald Trump is also here, alongside GOP winner George W. Bush and two Republican losers.  The popular vote plurality leader in this narrow range equates somewhat randomly to electoral college winners.

Note that Hillary Clinton, who is supposed to be president in the eyes of many because she won 48.1% of the popular vote, received a smaller popular vote share in 2016 than did loser John Kerry in 2004 (48.3%).

But Hillary did beat out her husband’s 1992 winning share. 

Bill Clinton is the only winner in the chart’s tiny bottom group (above) — those who received less than 45% of the popular vote.  Clinton won a mere 43% of the popular vote in his exciting “don’t stop thinking about tomorrow” 1992 election.  The nation at the time saw Clinton’s win as an echo of John Kennedy’s dramatic 1960 victory that brought “a new generation” of leaders to power.  Note, however that Kennedy, like Clinton, was a popular vote minority president, having won only 49.7% of the total vote in 1960.

Evidently, sometimes change candidates — Trump comes to mind — barely scratch their way to power, with the popular vote majority going elsewhere.

Here’s another look at the popular vote, in this case votes for each candidate since 2000 (above, my 2nd chart).  There are three trends.  First, Republicans and Democrats both improved their 2000 popular vote in 2004.  Second, after 2004, Republicans could not top Bush’s 2004 victory total until 2016, when Trump gained more votes for president than had any Republican in history.  Third, Obama’s 2008 vote total is the most any presidential candidate received ever. Democrats have done worse in each election since.

Trump’s votes show Republicans on the rise to new heights, up in 2012 from 2008, and up again this year.  Meanwhile, Hillary has done worse than Obama in 2012, who did worse than Obama in 2008.  Obama, in fact, was the only incumbent president ever to receive less votes in his second term.

One has to wonder, with the Democratic popular vote trend line headed downward, why would Hillary run as the status quo candidate?

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