There have only been five occasions in US history where the winner of the presidential election lost the popular vote. Popular vote share matters as it shows how popular a candidate is across the entire country.
Here are the seven most popular presidents in terms of raw votes received at their respective elections. However, it is worth noting, that as America’s population has boomed over the years, some of the country’s most recent presidents dominate this list.
7th – George H. W. Bush in 1988
Vice President Bush secured the Republican party’s nomination in 1988 and secured his first and only win at the top of the ticket in November that year. Due to the closeness of Reagan and Bush, many saw Bush’s first term as a third term for Reagan. Bush won just shy of 49 million votes, beating Democrat Michael Dukakis by a margin of 53.4% - 45.6%. On top of that, Bush secured 426 electoral college votes compared to the 111 won by Dukakis.
6th – George W. Bush in 2000
If Bush senior’s term can be called Reagan’s third term, and if Bush junior’s fourth term can be classed as Bush senior’s second term, Bush junior's first term could also be called Reagan’s fourth term. In 2000, it all came down to Florida, which Bush won by a thread-hair. Although Bush won the most electoral college votes, he lost in terms of the popular vote, winning a total of 50.5 million, just behind the 51 million won by incumbent VP Al Gore.
5th – Ronald Reagan in 1984
This is the oldest presidential win to be included in the top seven, although considering the growth in America’s population, the fact that it beat many more recent elections, the scale of Reagan’s second win is truly staggering. At this significant election, Reagan won all but one state, beating Walter Mondale with 54.5 million votes compared to the 37.5 million won by his Democratic opponent.
4th – George W. Bush in 2004
Four years after Bush lost the popular vote but won the presidency, he redeemed himself by winning both the electoral college and the popular vote. He defeated John Kerry in a tight electoral college race, winning over 62 million votes.
3rd – Donald Trump in 2016
Last year, Republican outsider Trump did the impossible by securing his party’s nomination and winning the presidency. Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton won more than three million votes than her opponent, but that did not stop Trump securing the electoral college by tearing down the so-called blue wall. Trump won 63 million votes, almost three million behind the 65.8 million won by Clinton.
2nd – Barack Obama in 2012
Four years after securing his first win, with a big promise for “change” and powerful rhetoric, Obama beat Republican challenger Mitt Romney with 65.9 million votes. Romney won 60.9 million votes and 24 states.
1st – Barack Obama in 2008
After eight years of George W. Bush, Obama beat Hillary Clinton to become his party’s nominee and ultimately beat Republican senator John McCain to become the country’s 44th president. Obama secured almost 70 million votes, winning 69.5 million votes and 365 electoral college votes.
When will someone beat Obama?
The data in this article are based off figures from this list of popular vote totals.