Thursday, November 8, 2012

Obama's Electoral Vote in Historical Perspective

Let us assume that President Obama ends up winning Florida's 29 electoral votes.  He would then have 332 electoral votes to Romney's 206, or 61.71% of the total.  That percentage may seem very high.  Indeed, some commentators are writing of a "thrashing" or a "rout."  But remember that except in Maine and Nebraska (which use the district system), a candidate wins 100% of a state's electoral vote even if he or she wins by small margin in the popular vote.  The electoral college typically amplifies the popular results.

So how does the president's electoral college margin rate by historical standards?

The 2012 race was the thirtieth presidential contest since 1896, which many scholars use as the beginning of "modern politics."   If we look at those 30 contests, we find that the mean winning percentage of the electoral vote is 73.43% and the median is 71.27%.

In other words, President Obama's share of the electoral vote is below average for winning candidates. It ranks twenty-second out of thirty.

1936 Franklin D. Roosevelt 98.49%
1984 Ronald Reagan 97.58%
1972 Richard Nixon 96.65%
1980 Ronald Reagan 90.89%
1964 Lyndon B. Johnson 90.33%
1932 Franklin D. Roosevelt 88.89%
1956 Dwight D. Eisenhower 86.06%
1940 Franklin D. Roosevelt 84.56%
1928 Herbert Hoover 83.62%
1952 Dwight D. Eisenhower 83.24%
1912 Woodrow Wilson 81.92%
1944 Franklin D. Roosevelt 81.36%
1988 George H. W. Bush 79.18%
1920 Warren G. Harding 76.08%
1924 Calvin Coolidge 71.94%
1904 Theodore Roosevelt 70.59%
1996 Bill Clinton 70.45%
1992 Bill Clinton 68.77%
2008 Barack Obama 67.84%
1908 William Howard Taft 66.46%
1900 William McKinley 65.32%
2012 Barack Obama 61.71%
1896 William McKinley 60.63%
1948 Harry S. Truman 57.06%
1960 John F. Kennedy 56.42%
1968 Richard Nixon 55.95%
1976 Jimmy Carter 55.20%
2004 George W. Bush 53.16%
1916 Woodrow Wilson 52.17%
2000 George W. Bush 50.37%
Mean 73.43%
Median 71.27%