President Bush’s re-election was greeted by competing claims from the right and the left. The initial claim from Bush supporter was that George Bush received more votes for President than any other candidate in history. A quick check of the records indicates that the claim is accurate. Of course a 3% margin of victory hardly compares to any of the many election blowouts (15% or greater) in US history.
Next up was the competing claim from the left that more people voted against President Bush than any candidate in history. Ignoring for the moment that it is not possible to vote against a candidate (there are only two options in an election – you can vote for a candidate or not vote for a candidate), this particular claim is not true.
Total Votes Votes For (%) Votes For Others (%)
Clinton 1992 104,425,014 44,909,326 (43%) 59,515,688 (57%)
Bush 2004 116,077,697 59,770,096 (51%) 56,307,601 (48%)
Of course the fact that 56,307,601 people didn’t vote for Bush (i.e. voted against) is about as informative as the fact that 59,515,688 didn’t vote for Bill Clinton – neither statistic really matters when it comes to the election results. In 1992 third party candidate Ross Perot garnered nearly 20 million votes and Bush (41) nearly 40 million votes, yet Bill Clinton won the Electoral College by a wide margin.
Both men won their respective elections because they received the most votes where it matters – in the Electoral College. Interestingly both won the popular vote by nearly the same percentage margin and total vote differential with the second place candidate.
Update: I wasn’t happy with the initial wording I used in this post… I’ve updated the text to be clearer…
Update 2: As noted in the comments, the new record holder for most votes against him in a Presidential election (more accurately votes for other candidates – or “not for” the record holder) is actually now John Kerry, who has topped even Bubba’s mark.