NewsThink.org

Landslide Presidential Elections

by Ed Sawicki - November 2020

In 2016, Donald Trump described his winning the presidential election as having an “electoral college landslide”. To make such an ignorant statement is to be unaware of previous elections. Trump won 304 electoral votes to Clinton's 227—hardly a landslide—especially since Trump lost the popular vote by 2.8 million votes.

Here's what the election map looked like in 2016. Many other elections looked similar to this but the winner usually won the popular vote. Instead of a landslide election, Trump's win is below average.

2016 US presidential election results 3 3 8 7 55 6 11 6 4 3 3 9 5 36 7 6 5 3 3 10 10 20 6 10 6 8 6 9 16 29 9 15 11 8 11 16 18 5 13 20 29 3 1 NH 4 VT 3 MA 11 RI 4 CT 7 NJ 14 DE 3 MD 10 DC 3 Clinton Trump
2016 election map

Actual landslide elections happened in 1912, 1936, 1972, and 1984. In these elections, the electoral college winner also won the popular vote. In 1972, Republican Richard Nixon won 520 electoral votes to George McGovern's 17. Nixon won by 18 million popular votes. Here's a map that illustrates Nixon's win.

1972 US presidential election results 3 4 9 6 45 3 4 4 4 3 7 6 4 26 8 7 5 4 3 10 11 26 8 12 6 10 7 9 12 17 8 13 10 9 13 21 25 6 11 27 41 4 McGovern Nixon NH 4 VT 3 MA 14 RI 4 CT 8 NJ 17 DE 3 MD 10 DC 3
1972 election map

In 1964, Lyndon Johnson won 486 electoral votes to Goldwater’s 52. Johnson won by 16 million popular votes.

1968 US presidential election results 3 4 9 6 40 3 4 4 4 3 6 5 4 25 8 7 5 4 4 10 12 26 9 12 6 10 7 10 12 14 8 13 11 9 13 21 26 7 12 29 43 4 Johnson Goldwater NH 4 VT 3 MA 14 RI 4 CT 8 NJ 17 DE 3 MD 10 DC 3
1964 election map

The following table shows election results since 1876, when the Democrats and Republicans were the major parties.

Presidential elections
 CandidatesPopular vote (millions)Electoral
YearDemGOPDemGOPDiffDemGOP
1876 Tilden Hayes 4.29 4.03 0.25 184 185
1880 Hancock Garfield 4.44 4.45 0.00 155 214
1884 Cleveland Blaine 4.91 4.86 0.06 219 182
1888 Cleveland Harrison 5.53 5.44 0.09 168 233
1892 Cleveland Harrison 5.56 5.18 0.38 277 145
1896 Bryan McKinley 6.51 7.11 0.60 176 271
1900 Bryan McKinley 6.37 7.23 0.86 155 292
1904 Parker Roosevelt 5.08 7.63 2.55 140 336
1908 Bryan Taft 6.41 7.68 1.27 162 321
1912 Wilson Taft 6.30 3.49 2.81 435 8
1916 Wilson Hughes 9.13 8.55 0.58 277 254
1920 Cox Harding 9.14 16.14 7.00 127 404
1924 Davis Coolidge 8.39 15.72 7.34 136 382
1928 Smith Hoover 15.01 21.43 6.41 87 444
1932 Roosevelt Hoover 22.82 15.76 7.06 472 59
1936 Roosevelt Landon 27.75 16.68 11.07 523 8
1940 Roosevelt Wilkie 27.31 22.35 4.97 449 82
1944 Roosevelt Dewey 25.61 22.02 3.59 432 99
1948 Truman Dewey 24.18 21.99 2.19 303 189
1952 Stevenson Eisenhower 27.37 34.07 6.70 89 442
1956 Stevenson Eisenhower 26.03 35.58 9.55 73 457
1960 Kennedy Nixon 34.22 34.11 0.113 303 219
1964 Johnson Goldwater 43.13 27.17 15.95 486 52
1968 Humphrey Nixon 31.27 31.78 0.51 191 301
1972 McGovern Nixon 29.17 47.17 17.99 17 520
1976 Carter Ford 40.83 39.14 1.68 297 240
1980 Carter Reagan 35.48 43.90 8.42 49 489
1984 Mondale Reagan 37.58 54.45 16.88 13 525
1988 Dukakis Bush 41.81 48.89 7.08 111 426
1992 Clinton Bush 44.91 39.10 5.80 370 168
1996 Clinton Dole 47.40 39.2 8.20 379 159
2000 Gore Bush 51.0 50.46 0.54 266 271
2004 Kerry Bush 59.03 62.04 3.01 251 286
2008 Obama McCain 69.5 59.95 9.55 365 173
2012 Obama Romney 62.98 60.93 2.05 332 206
2016 Clinton Trump 65.85 62.98 2.87 227 304
2020 Biden Trump 78.86 73.22 5.64 290 232

The closest election in modern times was in 2000 when Gore received over half-a-million votes more than Bush but Bush won with five more electoral votes. Gore would have won the election if not for the Supreme Court. That's another story.

Additional reading

Voter turnout