Center for American Progress

The 2004 Election: A Mandate for Sweeping Change?

Since the United States began keeping records of the popular vote for president in 1824, we have had 46 presidential elections. In 16 of those elections, the incumbent president won. On average, successful incumbents collected 31 percent more votes than their opponents. Prior to the 2004 election, Woodrow Wilson held the record for the narrowest win over his opponent. He defeated Charles Evans Hughes in 1916 by winning only 6.9 percent more of the popular vote than Hughes. In 2004, George W. Bush received only 6.3 percent more popular votes than his opponent, the least of any successful incumbent in history and only about one-fifth of the average margin for successful incumbents. As a result of population growth and the absence of significant support for third party candidates, Bush received more popular votes than any candidate in history. By the same token, more votes were cast against him than anyone who has ever been elected president.

The positions of American Progress, and our policy experts, are independent, and the findings and conclusions presented are those of American Progress alone. A full list of supporters is available here. American Progress would like to acknowledge the many generous supporters who make our work possible.

Just released!

Interactive: Mapping access to abortion by congressional district

Click here