Hillary Clinton won the popular vote in the 2016 election.

Did Hillary Clinton Win the Popular Vote? – Why Hillary Clinton Won the Popular Vote, but Lost the Election Anyway

Hillary Clinton won the popular vote, but lost the 2016 election to Donald Trump anyway due to the way the electoral college works. In the United States of America the President is elected by the electoral college, not the popular vote, and the popular vote in the general election is an advisory vote (the U.S. is a Republic and not a direct democracy). Although specific dates change every 4 years, nothing is official in terms of Presidential elections until the electors’ votes are cast and counted.[1][2][3]

The final results according to CNN were (the final count is subject to change).[4]

  • Electoral vote: Clinton 232 vs. Trump 306 (270 to win)
  • Popular Vote: Clinton 65,853,516 (48.5%) votes vs. Trump
    62,984,825 (46.4%)

As you can see, Clinton lost the election even though she won the national popular vote by almost 3 million votes.

This may seem unfair, or fair, depending on your politics, but fairness of winner-take-all is secondary to the fact that “it is the way it is”.

The Electoral College + Winner-take-all system is meant to give extra weight to the less populous states. In America, the less populous states tend to be Republican, so in those states majority rule wins.

As you can imagine, after yet another win by electoral vote where Republicans lost majority, the chances of them wanting to change the system are zero-to-none. That said, the official end tally is clear, Trump is President, despite Hillary winning the national popular vote.

WHAT ABOUT VOTER FRUAD?: Voter fraud is real and every American should care about both voter fraud and voter suppression (like strict voter ID, gerrymandering, and limiting voting hours). However, there was no proof of widespread voter fraud in the 2016 election (despite many rhetorical charges, there is no actual evidence). Charging that Clinton only won because of voter fraud without evidence is not a claim that can or should be taken seriously. Unless an investigation concludes that voter fraud has occurred, we must concede it has not. The same goes for the claims of in-person voter fraud that are used to create strict laws that hurt minorities (like gerrymandering in the Black Belt). We know legal and illegal voter fraud occurs on both sides of the aisle, but we have no evidence of widespread voter fraud on either side. Learn more about voting fraud and the history of voter fraud accusations, the mud slinging is older than George Washington.

DID TRUMP WIN THE POPULAR VOTE?: Donald Trump did not win the popular vote, he lost by nearly 3 million votes. However, these votes come mostly from California and New York… which is why Republicans will never agree to follow a national majority. The College was meant to protect minorities, but in America 2016 we didn’t get a minority candidate, just two candidates of whom neither got 50% of the vote. This is why people suggest things like run-off voting and no confidence voting! See: Snopes Final Vote Count 2016 if need be, of course any source that tallies the election can show you a clear lead for Clinton.

FACT: If California’s votes didn’t count, then Trump would have won the popular vote. While this is an interesting factoid, it is not relevant in the United States. We are a Union of 50 states in the U.S., without the States there is nothing to Unite. Without the states, the electoral college is no longer a justifiable system. It may sound good on paper to point out that progressive California swung the popular vote to Clinton… but it also insinuates that California’s 38.8 million (1/10th of the entire country) is somehow not relevant in a conversation about voting on the direction of the country. The bottom line is Clinton won the popular, Trump won the EC, and the race was generally close like it was in the 2000 election (where Gore won the popular and Bush won the EC).

How Does the Electoral College Work?

To clarify, our Republican, not Democratic, electoral system works like this (dates subject to change, dates below use 2016 as an example):

  • The people vote on November 8th as an advisory vote.
  • On December 19th electors meet in their state and vote for the President and Vice President on separate ballots. This is a direct vote. At this step it is theoretically possible for “faithless electors” to upset the popular vote by voting against the state majority in states that don’t ban this completely.
  • Lastly, on January 6th, Congress meets to count the votes.
  • Whoever gets a 270 vote majority out of the 538 electoral votes on January 6th, not November 8th, wins. If there is no 270-vote majority, the House of Representatives decides the next President.

Since the popular vote is an advisory vote, nothing was set in stone until the electors cast their vote until December 19th, 2016 and then the Senate and President signed off on it. State-based electors could have changed their pledged votes in 29 states per state-based rules, and technically all could have changed their vote per the Constitution (as the Constitution doesn’t say how electors should vote).

These odd truisms of our Republic could have resulted in a win for Clinton or even a third party candidate via the House. However, to be clear, the chances of the electors going “faithless” and not voting with the winner-takes-all system is unlikely from a historic standpoint in any election. What is likely is that electors will follow tradition and custom and officially elect the winner of the winner-take-all system, putting aside the technicalities of Constitutional provisions or the sentiment of the popular vote.

TIP: There have been two compromises in American history which completely changed politics. Both were called “corrupt bargains“, in both cases the person who lost the electoral vote one. In both cases a nativist populist who had strong support in the south ended up not becoming President. I don’t want to get too off topic, but if you know history, you know how many parallels we are drawing to 1824 and 1877 here.

TIP: Dates are subject to change each election, for example electors vote “On the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December” which in 2016 is December 19th. Likewise, the general election is statutorily set as “the Tuesday next after the first Monday in the month of November” where the earliest possible date is November 2, and the latest possible date is November 8 (as it was for the 2016 election). See a timeline of the 2016 election for 2016’s dates. See Presidential Election Laws and The 2016 Presidential Election for more details.

Could Hillary Clinton Still Win the Electoral College? Faithless Electors Explained.

TIP: There are multiple movements underway to change the electoral college (including a petition on MoveOn.Org to abolish it) or to lobby the electors to change their votes before December 19th (including a petition on Change.Org). Learn how to change the electoral college, and why we should or should not.

TIP: Our founders purposely set up this Republican form of government. They wanted to protect against special interests and majority interest and provide a few extra lines of defense ready in case the public was about to vote in a despot or tyrant. Literally, this is what the Federalist #10 is about, it isn’t just about special interest factions… its about safeguarding the Republic from any sort of political faction be it minority, monied, or majority interest. To be clear, this doesn’t suggest what the right thing to do in 2016 would be, but that is what we have electors for, they make the final call, as the founders intended… The founder’s thinking was not flawed, but the system as it stands today is questionable given recent close-call elections and the very divisive two party system we have.

FACT: The majority of Americans voted for a candidate who didn’t win. The race was very close. The results, if anything show that the country remains divided by left-right politics politically, despite being United on a deeper level.

Past Elections in Which a Presidential Candidate Won the Popular Vote, but Lost the Election

There have been four other times in U.S. history where the candidate who won the popular vote didn’t win the election.

  1. In 1824, during the election between Democratic-Republican and future Whig John Quincy Adams and Democratic-Republican and future Democratic Party father Andrew Jackson, Jackson won the popular but lost the election. The vote went to the House and Adams won in the first “corrupt bargain” only to be beaten by Jackson four years later.
  2. In 1876 Republican Rutherford B. Hayes won by one electoral vote, while losing the popular vote to Samuel J. Tilden. With that said, he didn’t really even win the electoral! Instead, things were so crazy post-Civil War that a few southern states reported both Hayes and Tilden winners. A deal was struck to ensure the south didn’t gain power and the result was the compromise of 1877 (the second “corrupt bargain”) that ended Reconstruction (which was actually not a good thing for ending segragation politics, just for ending the occupation of the south by the North).
  3. In 1888 Republican Benjamin Harrison won by a large majority of electoral votes, while losing the popular vote to Grover Cleveland a “reformed” Bourbon liberal. There was no bargain struck.
  4. In 2000 George W. Bush Vs. Al Gore, Gore won the popular vote but lost the electoral vote during “the Florida recount”. There was no bargain struck.[8]

Hillary Clinton may have lost, but she will go down in history for winning the popular vote and being the first female Presidential nominee of a major U.S. party… that is if Democrats don’t use one of many parts of the Constitution available to them to find “compromise” (which is historically a real possibility in such a close election; see 270 to win, most elections are won by larger margins, this one is hardly comparable to any… accept 1824, 1876, 1888, and 2000).


Hillary Clinton won the popular vote, but she lost the electoral vote. This is why she lost the Presidential race.


  1. 2016 Presidential Election Map
  2. Trump’s victory another example of how Electoral College wins are bigger than popular vote ones
  3. Does my vote count? Understanding the electoral college
  4. CNN

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Brian Wiard on

No She did not vote fraud used against Trump more than used against Bernie Sanders who won California by 38 % more votes https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MoGeDGHmwJU Hillary Clinton’s election fraud finally exposed. California stolen from Bernie Sanders! Bernie 69 % Hillary 31 this election the fraud was around double or more

Thomas DeMichele
Thomas DeMichele on

You are talking about the Primary, where we know from leaks and such that Bernie was done some injustice, but didn’t win margins large enough to ensure a win against “the establishment”. We can be upset over this, but it isn’t what the page is about. The page is about Clinton winning the popular Vote in the Trump vs. Clinton race.

GumBoocho on

Now you know that there is little doubt that HIllary won the vast majority of the ILLEGAL VOTES, especially in CalEEfornia where the majority of votes are supposed “absentee” for crying out loud. Counting the illegal votes forced by our Oligarchy courts ( vs the legislatures of the Republic) by forbidding IDs, Hillary carried a plurality, but NO ONE WON A MAJORITY, w/ over 5 president candidates. So if U want a majority popular vote, it would require a runoff. And if U want an honest election by citizens only, there must be good voter ID w/ freedom from inner city intimidation as by Acorn, Black Panthers, & community organizers.

Thomas DeMichele
Thomas DeMichele on

Respectfully disagree and feel this is a very lopsided view with racist undertones. Can I ask honestly for citations, I am starting to feel fake news sites really are a problem.

The black panthers are pretty much a non-existent group and there is actually accusations of fraud from both sides to consider.

Further, Voter ID is arguably suppression, ACORN was already witch hunted by the right and shut down last cycle, and just generally I looked for proof of what you say and didn’t find any.

See our page on voter fraud: http://factmyth.com/factoids/voter-fraud-is-real/

James Madison on

Did you not read your own article???? You say the count isn’t complete, but claim to know who won…rather a sad statement about your editorial staff’s inability to not try to influence the “news”. You must be desperate!

When the final count is complete then call the winner. Until then stop reporting speculation as fact. And remember that not all states count all absentee ballots if the result of the race wouldn’t be affected by those ballots. So even if Hillary “wins” after the vote count is complete, there is no way to know if those ballots would affect the winner. If the popular vote was used to determine the winner those ballots might easily shift from one candidate to the other, since many are military who tend to vote conservative.

Go back to the liberal college where you supposedly were taught the principles you are using to call yourselves reporters and demand your money back for providing such a pathetic education on the basics of our Democratic Republic. And quit trying to “influence” and “make” news, just try and get the reporting right!

I can’t stress how truly pathetic this article is. You get an “F” in factual reporting!

Erin Georgen on

Firstly, thanks for the feedback, I updated the page’s introduction to ensure it was clear that it was a “projected” vote both in terms of Clinton and Trump.

So right now we are saying, given where the count is at, it is projected that: Trump is President elect and Hillary won the popular vote.

If we can’t say this about Hillary, we can’t say this about Trump, and we revert to the fact the college picks the President in our Republic, and the Constitution speaks nothing to popular votes or winner-takes-all gleaned from the advisory Nov. 8 election. This would be the most correct stance technically speaking and speaking of facts.

As someone who has studied not only elections, but the Constitution, I would be more in the camp that we don’t celebrate the Nov. 8 advisory vote like the entire U.S. and media is doing. So in a way, we are being more factual than most.

We aren’t saying that Trump doesn’t deserve a win, or Hillary does, we are saying that this is how our system works. We are trying to explain to people who are confused that the popular vote doesn’t elect the President. We are trying to make people understand that this is a lot like Bush vs. Gore where Bush (like Trump) is projected to win due to the electoral vote… but part of that story is explaining that the Nov. 8 vote is an advisory vote.

Considering i’m just reiterating what is in the article, I would say that we are doing a great job reporting the facts and you are just angry because we aren’t declaring Trump the winner. He may end up with the popular, if he does, this page will become a “myth” and the numbers will be updated. No other facts will change, because they are pulled direct from our current system and Constitution. We ARE a Republic with a Democratic spirit, which we write about often explaining everything from past elections to Madison and Hamilton’s Federalist papers.

Jessie James on

“So even if Hillary “wins” after the vote count is complete, there is no way of knowing if those ballots would affect the winner.”
Those ballots mean nothing for either candidate. They only prove the reality that America doesn’t want the new dictator, chosen by a microscopic fraction of us, known as the Electoral College, no matter how we voted. Enjoy paying for “the wall” they just bought with your taxes. You didn’t think Mexico was dumb enough to pay for that, did you? They might enjoy a few million construction jobs, though.

Zane R Nobbs on

First off, Spaz Clinton had to CHEAT to beat Senator Bernie Sanders, who rightly should have been the candidate, then her minions pulled every trick in the book to cajole, extort, blackmail and finally outright cheat against Mr. Trump as well. It didn’t work and she got what she deserved. So none of her popular votes should count since they were actually stolen from Bernie.

Thomas DeMichele
Thomas DeMichele on

Perhaps Hillary won the popular vote. However, this does not take into account the fact that Trump strategy was to win the Electoral College, not the popular vote. It is how Presidential elections are won. If the popular vote was the determinant of a winner, then Trumps strategy would have been different and perhaps he would have won the popular vote also. Nevertheless, it is not fair to talk about a popular vote in an election which has the victory of the Electoral College as its goal.

Thomas DeMichele
Thomas DeMichele on

Fair enough. However, it is important from a Civics standpoint no matter what. About 1/2 of America didn’t vote, and many think their vote doesn’t count (trust me, we have a popular page debunking this http://factmyth.com/factoids/your-vote-doesnt-count/).

Our focus is on explaining how things work in practice. It is for this reason that we wanted to explain that for 2016, like for the 2000 election, the candidate who got the national popular isn’t projected to have won.

As for the electoral college, 100% agree, we also write often of the Republic, the founders, and their intentions with the Electoral College. In this respect we must remember that while Trump won the General, he has not yet officially won the votes of the College (as of writing this).

Although our site is focused on facts, it is my opinion that we set the stage for frustration when we don’t explain how the system works Constitutionally. We all need to respect the Republic and our laws as they stand (not how we want them to be). For Trump supporters this means a projected win, but that they must admit they aren’t there yet. For Clinton supporters, it means almost a certain loss, but it is their right to indirectly lobby the electors.

Audrey Compton on

Hillary won the popular vote! Unfortunately, we will all suffer the next four years. Everything Mr Trump has accused Hillary of, he has been guilty of! Look at his businesses and his business practices!

Mabel Waddell on

If you discounted all of the dead people that voted there would be no question that trump won.

Thomas DeMichele
Thomas DeMichele on

Strongly disagree. There is no evidence that this occurred and I would bet that you can’t put forth any compelling evidence that would show me 1.5 million or so dead voters voting for Clinton. Furthermore, regional voter fraud accusations are being levied by more than just the Democrats.

Experts urge recounts due to new evidence of electronic voter fraud? Well, I would take anything like this with a grain of salt: http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2016/11/activists-urge-hillary-clinton-to-challenge-election-results.html

… but in this same way, I am after research, taking your comment which lacks even a citation, with that same grain of salt.

See our page on voter fraud, we take it seriously, but it isn’t a partisan issue that can be solved with a quip: http://factmyth.com/factoids/voter-fraud-is-real/

K W Parcells on

This election demonstrates the genius of our founders in implementing the electoral college. I, for one, do not want the extreme leftist nature of the politics of the east and west coasts controlling who gets elected president of the US.

Thomas DeMichele
Thomas DeMichele on

Amen, that wouldn’t be fair. However, our current system has some majority rule related problems too! Read a short essay on why the current winner-take-all system (which is not purely the EC) is arguably unfair in itself, from a viewpoint of respecting minority interests and the intentions of our founders.


Jay on

Without the overwhelming margins in a single county (Los Angeles) and single city (New York City), Trump won the popular vote by about 500,000. This shows precisely why the Founders invented the EC, to prevent the interests in Manhattan, KS, from being perpetually overcome by those in Manhattan, NY. It’s only when their candidate loses that we hear cries that the EC is somehow “outdated”. No, it isn’t.

Thomas DeMichele
Thomas DeMichele on

Let us not though confuse winner-take-all and the EC. Two different things. I strongly support the EC, but not winner-take-all for example.

S Zirkle on

Clinton won the popular vote, fact. But the majority of the 2million plus margin was in the state she had already won (California), which nobody but Fox News mentions. This is why the electoral college is so important, and why it was set up in the first place.

Thomas DeMichele
Thomas DeMichele on

Well, that is true that CA tips the scales. But… that doesn’t have much to do with anything.

1. We are a united states. CA is no more sovereign than WA or MA or LA, not as a state or as a people. They are equal.
2. Swing states like Florida and Pennsylvania probably best represents how the country feels. We see a slight swing towards Trump, and for my money that is correct and what happened.

Thus, yes EC is important. But, any points about a single state aside, I think we can agree that she technically won the popular like Gore (who won by even tighter margins), but like in 2000 the country is really just split in half.

I won’t muse on what that means, but consider that the majority of Americans didn’t vote at all. So really what we are saying is that political Americans are split in half.

Ultimately, the Snopes article explains it well enough: http://www.snopes.com/hillary-clintons-popular-vote-win-came-entirely-from-california. Without CA she doesn’t win the popular… but without a carrot nose, coal eyes, and a corn cob pipe a snowman is just a pile of snow. Not really any good points to make here. I won’t argue what my nose is like without my face, why argue what the country is like without a state? Each state is like a limb of the body, it is insane to consider the U.S. without the S.

Creep Doggie Log on

Sorry to be pedantic here but 48.2% is NOT a majority – It’s a plurality. More people voted for someone other than Hillary Clinton than voted for Hillary Clinton.

Thomas DeMichele
Thomas DeMichele on

100% correct. Good insight.

Seth D Perry on

Hillary won a majority of the popular vote, but more than half of the country voted for someone other than her.

Thomas DeMichele
Thomas DeMichele on

That is almost right.

So “Estimates show more than 58 percent of eligible voters went to the polls during the 2016 election” http://www.pbs.org/newshour/updates/voter-turnout-2016-elections/

So lets say, rough estimate:
42% of eligible voters voted for no one.
30% voted for Hillary.
28% voted for Trump.

Trump won the electoral, Hillary the Popular, and that is 120 million ish… the other 200 million either chose no-one on purpose or weren’t eligible to vote.

So, lets just say, “it was a tight race” and “the lack of voter participation is a problem”…. there wasn’t even a 50% majority for either candidate of those who actually did cast their vote.

Many people identify as “independent”, hard to treat this like the country has swung left or right or like either party had a significant win of any sort.

Of course, in practice, and what matters: GOP secured a win for the Presidency and majority in the House and Senate.

Bobby cornett on

Hillary Clinton and her fellow demoncrats tried to rigg the election for their benefit but failed and tried making pathetically freaking excuses just like Hollywood. They’re the traitors and need to understand that if they keep pushing they’ll reap what they have sown .

Thomas DeMichele
Thomas DeMichele on

The problem with this line of thinking is that it is conspiracy theory and not provable fact.

The left has historically seen the right-wing strategy (the coordinated and uncoordinated action of different right-wing factions) as a “conspiracy”, likewise the right has seen left-wing action as a “conspiracy”.

Any entity “cheating” in elections does not represent the majority left or right, and cheating is limited to one political party.

If you cannot cite proof, then you should conceded that this is conjecture and not provable fact, when we act on conjecture we start down a slippery slope.

It is my fear that conjecture will be used to create unfair voting laws.

I hope that you see that connection. We need to treat lightly if we respect democracy and the republic.


Bobby cornett on

I’m just glad it’s over and trump.won just hope he’s allowed to help this nation in regards to freedom among to other things