Q: How many times was a president elected who did not win the popular vote?
A: It has happened four times.
The 2000 election was the most recent when the candidate who received the greatest number of electoral votes, and thus won the presidency, didn’t win the popular vote. But this scenario has played out in our nation’s history before.
In 1824, John Quincy Adams was elected president despite not winning either the popular vote or the electoral vote. Andrew Jackson was the winner in both categories. Jackson received 38,000 more popular votes than Adams, and beat him in the electoral vote 99 to 84. Despite his victories, Jackson didn’t reach the majority 131 votes needed in the Electoral College to be declared president. In fact, neither candidate did. The decision went to the House of Representatives, which voted Adams into the White House.
In 1876, Rutherford B. Hayes won the election (by a margin of one electoral vote), but he lost the popular vote by more than 250,000 ballots to Samuel J. Tilden.
In 1888, Benjamin Harrison received 233 electoral votes to Grover Cleveland’s 168, winning the presidency. But Harrison lost the popular vote by more than 90,000 votes.
In 2000, George W. Bush was declared the winner of the general election and became the 43rd president, but he didn’t win the popular vote either. Al Gore holds that distinction, garnering about 540,000 more votes than Bush. However, Bush won the electoral vote, 271 to 266.
Update, Nov. 11: As of today, Hillary Clinton is ahead in the popular vote for the 2016 presidential election, while Donald Trump won the electoral college. However, states are still counting votes. We will update this story once the results are official.
Office of the Federal Register, U.S. National Archives and Records Administration Web site, 2000 Presidential Election: Electoral Vote Totals, 12 March 2008
Office of the Federal Register, U.S. National Archives and Records Administration Web site, 2000 Presidential Election: Popular Vote Totals, 12 March 2008
Office of the Federal Register, U.S. National Archives and Records Administration Web site, Historical Election Results: 1789-2004 Presidential Elections, 12 March 2008