Top 9 closest US presidential elections since 1945

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Based on electoral college vote shares, here is a list of the nine closest US presidential contests in modern times.

9. Election 2008

Obama’s first victory was the ninth closest presidential election since the end of World War Two in terms of share of the electoral college votes won by each side. After eight years of Republican White House rule, America voted for change in form of the charismatic Barack Obama.

The Democratic president won 365 electoral college votes – 68% of those available.

8. Election 2012

Four years later, Obama saw off Republican challenger Mitt Romney to keep the White House. This time was closer, with the president winning 332 electoral college votes – 62% of those available.

7. Election 1948

Harry Truman beat Republican candidate Thomas E. Dewey in the first post-war election race with 57% of electoral college votes – 303 in total.

6. Election 2016

In terms of share of the electoral college, the latest instalment in the “America Votes” saga featured the sixth closest US presidential race. Donald Trump won the presidency with 56.5% of the electoral college votes – 304 in total.

Trump may have won the White House, but his popular vote-share was significantly less than that of his rival’s, Hillary Clinton.

5. Election 1960

The 1960 election marked the end of eight years of Republican rule when John F. Kennedy beat Richard Nixon. This was a close election both in terms of popular vote share and electoral vote share. Kennedy won 303 electoral college votes, 56% of those available at the time.

4. Election 1968

Richard Nixon made the list for the biggest US presidential victories four years after this, but his first victory – and third time running for president – saw him win just under 56% of available electoral college votes (301 in total).

3. Election 1976

Eight years later, Jimmy Carter took on Nixon’s replacement – Gerald Ford – to return the White House back to the Democrats. Despite the Watergate scandal two years previously, the election was close, but ultimately saw a win for Carter.

2. Election 2004

George W. Bush’s second election takes the second top stop in this list. He won 286 votes (53% of those available) compared to 251 won by Democratic challenger John Kerry.

The election followed 9/11 and the resultant War on Terror.

1 Election 2000

The election of George W. Bush in 2000 was the closest presidential race since 1945. It was also one of the closest in US history. Bush won just 271 electoral college votes, just 50.37% of those available. His opponent, Al Gore won 266 electoral college votes, as well as the popular vote.

The result in Florida was extremely close meaning a recount had to take place. After the recount and a Supreme Court ruling, Bush was declared the winner. Bush won the state by less than 600 votes; if 600 non-voters in Florida had gone out and picked Al Gore, then he would have won the presidency.

For the fact that this election was the closest in terms of electoral college vote share, as well as the added drama of the Florida recount, this race well and truly deserves the top-spot.


Figures for this list are based of the stats on this Wikipedia page on presidential elections.