Trump’s 2016 win ranks 19th out of the last 25 elections since 1920

One of the frequent refrains heard from critics of the Democratic impeachment proceedings against Donald Trump is that his removal should be ‘left to the voters’ in 2020.

A subsection of those critics also maintain that Democrats are only undergoing this process because they believe Trump cannot be defeated at the ballot box.

As evidence, the president’s allies (e.g. Ohio Congressman Jim Jordan) have characterized Trump’s victory in 2016 as an “Electoral College landslide.”

Trump, of course, famously lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton by 2.9 million votes, and the framing of the 2020 race has seemingly already crowned the eventual Democratic nominee as the likely popular vote winner.

But is it fair and accurate to suggest that Trump notched an Electoral College blowout victory three years ago?

The 304 electors who cast their vote for Trump constituted 56.5 percent of the 538 possible votes across the country (77 more than Clinton).

From a historical perspective, that resulted in a fairly competitive election.

Over the last 26 presidential elections since 1916, only six victors won with a smaller share of the electoral vote:

  • Woodrow Wilson, 1916: 52.2 percent (277 votes)
  • John Kennedy, 1960: 56.4 percent (303)
  • Richard Nixon, 1968: 55.9 percent (301)
  • Jimmy Carter, 1976: 55.2 percent (297)
  • George W. Bush, 2000: 50.4 percent (271)
  • George W. Bush, 2004: 53.2 percent (286)

Dating back through the last 48 cycles to the dawn of the modern two-party era in 1828, just three additional candidates captured less than Trump’s 56.5 percent:

  • Zachary Taylor, 1848: 56.2 percent (163 votes)
  • Rutherford Hayes, 1876: 50.1 percent (185)
  • Grover Cleveland, 1884: 54.6 percent (219)

To be sure, most presidential elections have not been very competitive, with the winning candidate claiming an average of 70.7 percent of the Electoral College vote over the last 190+ years.

That percentage has decreased thus far in the 21st Century – averaging just 57.9 percent for the five elections held since 2000.

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  1. Nikoli Orr on December 1, 2019 at 7:51 pm

    1. “…since 1920, only six ‘victors’…”; Woodrow Wilson, 1916: 52.2% (277 votes)

    a) Wilson ought to be excluded from the list; or b) the starting date under review should be adjusted, e.g. 1912, 1900. Also, ‘victors’ refer to persons. Hence, there have been just FOUR (or five, even counting Wilson) who have won with lesser margins than “45”.

    2. Indeed, the most favourable (charitable?) thing that may be said regarding the ‘landslide’ win by “The Chosen One” is that he is the first R presidential victor to reach the 300-vote threshold since George Herbert Walker Bush in 1988.

    • Dr. Eric Ostermeier on December 1, 2019 at 8:43 pm

      RE #1 – Yes, meaning the last 100 years since 1916. Corrected above, thanks.

  2. Max Goodall on February 5, 2024 at 7:09 pm

    Where is Ronald Reagan? He won in a landslide both times in 1980 and 1984.

    • Dr. Eric Ostermeier on February 6, 2024 at 8:40 am

      Yes – Reagan won in two landslides. This report focuses on the presidential elections that were *not* landslides.

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