The Most Lopsided Presidential Elections in U.S. History

How a Landslide is Measured

Franklin Delano Roosevelt
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt granted the most presidential pardons in history. National Archives and Records Administration

The most lopsided president election in U.S. history was Democrat Franklin Delano Roosevelt's 1936 victory against Republican Alfred M. Landon. Roosevelt won 98.5 percent or 523 of the 538 electoral votes up for grabs that year. Such a lopsided president election is unheard of in modern history. But Roosevelt's victory is by no means the only lopsided presidential election.

Republican Ronald Reagan won the most electoral votes of any president in history, 525.

But that was after seven more electoral votes were added to the prize. His 525 electoral votes represented 97.6 percent of all 538 electoral votes.

Definition of a Lopsided President Election

In presidential elections, a landslide election is generally agreed to be one in which the winning candidate secures at least 375 or 70 percent of the 538 electoral votes in the Electoral College. For purposes of this article, we are using electoral votes as a measure and not the popular vote.

It is possible to win the popular vote and lose the presidential race, as happened in the 2000 and 2016 elections because of the way electoral votes are distributed by states. A landslide presidential election, in other words, may not always result in a similarly wide margin in popular vote because many U.S. states award electoral votes on a winner-take-all basis to the candidate who wins the popular vote in their state.

Using the standard definition of a landslide victory in presidential politics, when one candidate wins at least 375 electoral votes, here's list of contested presidential races that were among the most lopsided in American history.

Note: President Donald Trump's 2016 electoral victory does not qualify as a lopsided victory as he won only 306 electoral votes.

Democrat Hillary Clinton won 232 electoral votes but carried the popular vote.

List of Landslide Presidential Elections

Under that standard definition, the following presidential elections would qualify as Electoral College landslides:

  • 1996: Democrat Bill Clinton won 379 electoral votes against Republican Bob Dole, who received only 159 electoral votes.
  • 1988: Republican George H.W. Bush won 426 electoral votes against Michael S. Dukakis, who received only 111.
  • 1984: Republican Ronald Reagan won 525 electoral votes against Democrat Walter Mondale, who got only 13 electoral votes.
  • 1980: Reagan won 489 electoral votes against Democrat Jimmy Carter, who got only 49 electoral votes.
  • 1972: Republican Richard Nixon won 520 electoral votes against Democrat George S. McGovern, who got only 17 electoral votes.
  • 1964: Democrat Lyndon B. Johnson got 486 electoral votes against Republican Barry M. Goldwater, who got only 52 electoral votes.
  • 1956: Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower got 457 electoral votes against Democrat Adlai Stevenson, who got only 73 electoral votes.
  • 1952: Eisenhower got 442 electoral votes against Stevenson, who got only 89 electoral votes.
  • 1944: Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt got 432 electoral votes against Republican Thomas E. Dewey, who got only 99 electoral votes.
  • 1940: Roosevelt got 449 electoral votes against Republican Wendell L. Wilkie, who got only 82 electoral votes.
  • 1936: Roosevelt got 523 electoral votes against Republican Alfred M. Landon, who got only 8 electoral votes.
  • 1932: Roosevelt got 472 electoral votes against Republican Herbert C. Hoover, who got only 59 electoral votes.
  • 1928: Republican Herbert C. Hoover got 444 electoral votes against Democrat Alfred E. Smith, who got only 87 electoral votes.
  • 1924: Republican Calvin Coolidge got 382 electoral votes against Democrat John W. Davis, who got only 136 electoral votes.
  • 1920: Republican Warren G. Harding got 404 electoral votes against Democrat James M. Cox, who got only 127 electoral votes.
  • 1912: Democrat Woodrow Wilson got 435 electoral votes against Progressive Theodore Roosevelt, who got only 88 electoral votes.
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    Murse, Tom. "The Most Lopsided Presidential Elections in U.S. History." ThoughtCo, Apr. 29, 2017, thoughtco.com/landslide-presidential-elections-by-electoral-votes-3367489. Murse, Tom. (2017, April 29). The Most Lopsided Presidential Elections in U.S. History. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/landslide-presidential-elections-by-electoral-votes-3367489 Murse, Tom. "The Most Lopsided Presidential Elections in U.S. History." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/landslide-presidential-elections-by-electoral-votes-3367489 (accessed December 12, 2017).