Donald Trump is the most popular Republican candidate in history bringing in over 62.4 million votes during the 2016 presidential election. He also secured victories in at least 83 percent of the counties in the United States. Trump is also ranked the third most popular presidential candidate in history. However, there is one huge difference in Trump’s popular vote win and that of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Trump is the only popular vote candidate in the top three to receive success in more than 25 percent of the county-level vote, a victory that has all but been overlooked in the media due to the popular vote margin and recount initiatives.
Both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton received their substantial popular vote tally while receiving an all-time low percentage of U.S. counties. Barack Obama set the record for the lowest number of counties won for a successful presidential candidate.
“President Obama established an all-time low percentage of U.S. counties for a successful presidential candidate: just 689 of more than 3,000, or a paltry 22%.”
NBC News notes that Barack Obama won with less than a 25 percent victory rate across all of the U.S. counties, scrapping in with a county victory rate of just 22 percent. Should Hillary Clinton have won the race based on popular vote alone, she would have beat Obama’s record of an all-time low with just a 15-17 percent success rate of the county-level vote.
However, the situation was very different for the Republican party’s most successful candidate, Donald Trump. The president-elect accomplished something unprecedented by ranking in the top three most popular candidates while maintaining a drastic county-level lead over Clinton. Trump received his popular vote count while earning a victory in 83-85 percent of the counties within the United States. In fact, the Atlantic notes that Trump’s lead in 3,000 of the 3,100 counties was so significant it would have resulted in a landslide victory for the businessman. If the top 100 most populous counties are removed and the remaining 3,000 counties were only counted, Trump won the 3,000 counties’ popular vote by 11.5 million votes.
“Clinton has won only about 420 counties total—far fewer than any popular vote winner over the past century. In the roughly 3000 counties beyond the 100 largest, Trump trounced Clinton by about 11.5 million votes.”
While disregarding the most populous counties would be a travesty to the U.S. election system, it does make a valid point as to how the Democrats lost the general election while maintaining a strong popular vote standing, a standing that would make Hillary Clinton the second most popular candidate in history, outdoing her spouse Bill Clinton’s best showing by 17 million votes.
To break it down further, Barack Obama received over 69.4 million votes in 2008, and 65.9 million in 2012. Hillary Clinton comes in second with 64 million while Trump ranks third with over 62 million. The distinct difference in the three candidates comes from county-level victories. Barack Obama only won 22 percent of the counties in the United States with Clinton winning only, a most, 15 percent.. Therefore, both Obama and Clinton relied heavily on the most populous counties for their votes.
This highlights the reasoning behind the Electoral College to ensure that non-urban dwelling citizens have their voices heard in the election. If there was no Electoral College, the 100 most populous counties (just 3 percent of the total county count) would determine every election unless something significant happened within the U.S. geography makeup. Therefore, rural voters’ concerns would be placed on the back burner of all presidential elections and platforms.
Some have noted that urban and rural citizens have different concerns with urban voters unable to recognize the problems associated with rural living and vice versa. Therefore, the Electoral College is designed to even the playing field and allow the best possible solution to the conundrum. Barack Obama’s victory shows that the most populous counties have enough sway to move an election should they get behind a candidate needing just 22 percent of the counties to band together to secure an urban-focused victory. This also highlights the ability of the Electoral College to work in favor of either parties.
State level results also rely heavily on the most populous cities within the state. Washington, Oregon and Nevada all went blue this 2016 election cycle, giving all electoral votes to Hillary Clinton. However, when you break down the county-level vote within each state, it is easy to see how urban areas play a major role in electorate selection.
Hillary Clinton won just eight of Oregon’s 36 counties but still pulled out an overall victory thanks to urban voters. In an even larger testament to the power of the most populous U.S. cities, Clinton won Nevada by securing victory in just two of the state’s 16 counties. Likewise, per current tallies, Clinton won just 12 of 39 counties in Washington.
Knowing the county-level statistics, does it change your opinion on whether the Electoral College should be dismantled in favor of a popular vote system? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.