US presidential votes as share of the adult population

If you multiply a candidate’s vote share with the turnout, then you get what share of the overall adult population voted for a candidate. This can tell us a lot about how widespread their appeal was, and their ability to motivate people to vote for them.

Trump may have lost to Biden but he got a greater share of the population voting for him than any other candidate since 1972. Even more than Reagan in his landslide of 1984.

Here’s the share of the overall adult population candidates have got since 1968.

  1. Biden 20: 34.2%
  2. Nixon 72 33.5%
  3. Trump 20: 31.6%
  4. Reagan 84: 31.3%
  5. Obama 08: 30.8%
  6. Bush 04: 28.7%
  7. Obama 12: 28.1%
  8. Kerry 04: 27.4%
  9. Clinton 16: 26.8%
  10. Bush 88: 26.8%
  11. Carter 76: 26.8%
  12. Reagan 80: 26.7%
  13. McCain 08: 26.6%
  14. Nixon 68: 26.4%
  15. Humphrey 68: 26.0%
  16. Romney 12: 25.9%
  17. Ford 76: 25.7%
  18. Trump 16: 25.7%
  19. Gore 00: 24.8%
  20. Bush 00: 24.5%
  21. Clinton 96: 24.1%
  22. Clinton 92: 23.7%
  23. Dukakis 88: 22.9%
  24. Mondale 84: 21.6%
  25. Carter 80: 21.6%
  26. McGovern 72: 20.7%
  27. Bush 92: 20.6%
  28. Dole 96: 19.9%

So in 2016 only 25.7% of adult Americans voted for Donald Trump and in 2020 it rose to 31.6%. Again that is astonishing.

Of course in 2016 Clinton got 26.8% of Americans voting for her and Biden in 2020 got a modern record of 34.2%.

It will be fascinating to see in 2024 if voting turnout stays so high. I imagine that will depend on who is standing!

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