2008 Election Results

I wanted to look at the results of our recent presidential election and compare it with other recent ones. Below is a complete chart with data from the past nine presidential elections (1976-2008, my lifetime). Obama’s election certainly was historic in many respects. Here are some statistical highlights:

  • Obama got more votes (popular votes) than any candidate in history.
  • McCain got over 3 million fewer votes than Bush got in 2004. (And it wasn’t as if those 3 million people voted for 3rd party candidates this time as you’ll see in the next point.)
  • 3rd party candidates got only 1.7 million votes, just over 1% of the voting electorate.
  • Total votes cast was over 128 million, up 6 million from 2004.
  • Obama was first Democrat to get more than 50% of the popular vote since Jimmy Carter in 1976, 32 years ago.
  • McCain got the lowest percentage of popular vote for Republicans since Dole in 1996 (of course Dole was also contending with Ross Perot who got 10% of the popular vote).
  • Over 5 million votes, 6.9% of the popular vote, separated Obama from McCain. This was the largest margin of victory for a candidate since Clinton in 1996.
  • Voter turnout, as a percentage of eligible voters, was slightly higher than 2004, and the best it has been in my lifetime, since 1976.

Sorry the chart is kind of small. Click on it to see a larger version.
What Does This Mean?
It means McCain lost the race as much as Obama won it. It means McCain did a lousy job of getting out the vote. McCain clearly didn’t excite the conservative base of the Republican party. You could have seen this coming by the fact that most conservative talk radio hosts (Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, etc.) fought hard against McCain during the nomination process. Of course they supported McCain over Obama, as McCain was the lesser of two evils. But this never translated into the party rallying around its candidate. There was some excitement from the conservative base at the nomination of Sarah Palin as vice president, but this was short lived and didn’t give McCain enough momentum to overcome the left’s excitement around Barack Obama.

Four years from now, if the Republicans want to regain the White House, they better put forth a better candidate…a more conservative, younger (I wish age wasn’t a factor but I think it was) candidate who can excite the party base and the nation as a whole.

Sources: Popular vote totals from Wikipedia.
Eligible and Registered numbers from: