Who has been voted for the most?
July 27, 2016 10:43 AM   Subscribe

In the history of elections, who has personally received the most total votes over their lifetime?

I'm looking for legitimate elections, so not Saddam Hussein getting 99.96% of 8 million votes or the like; and votes that are cast for an actual person, so not Narendra Modi's party getting 170 million votes.

Obama is around 165 million between his Senate run, two presidential primaries and elections, and Putin seems to be near 150 million for his three presidential terms, but is there anyone else with more?

(Googling runs up against "Trump got more votes than any Republican ever" at the moment.)
posted by Etrigan to Law & Government (17 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I wonder how legit Putin's totals are.

I have no specific insight here, but I'd assume that it'll be someone recent because of population expansion.

Even FDR's 4 national victories don't put him in Obama's league (numbers from Wikipedia):

1932: 22.812M
1936: 27.748M
1940: 27.314M
1944: 25.612M

That's "only" about 103M, though. Obama got 69.499M votes in 2008 and 65.916M in 2012, so he beats FDR's 4-year Presidential total by a wide margin despite having half as many elections, and without including his Illinois races at all (which, vs. a nationwide election, would really only be a rounding error, no?).

The other thought I had was that George W. Bush might've had a shot at this as a multi-term governor of a big state prior to two Presidential elections, but turnout for those statewide races was pretty low -- 5M or so total votes -- and Bush's 2000 national total was SUPER low vs. Obama (about 50 million in 2000, which amazes me). His 2004 national total was closer to but still short of Obama-esque levels (62M), so he's well behind in this tally.

(Before you ask: Reagan won in '80 with about 44M and in '84 with about 64M, and while his gubernatorial votes were bigger than Bush's he still only got something under 8M total in both races, so he's short, too.)

Since Bush is the only big-state governor to make it the White House in recent years, I suspect this means BHO wins for now. If a big-state governor were to end up in the White House sometime in the future, though, and stay there for two terms, he or she would take the crown.
posted by uberchet at 11:01 AM on July 27, 2016

It is probably an American, especially if you are willing to count primary votes along with the corresponding general election (I can't think of another large country that has such a system). If you count votes for the ticket as votes for the Vice President, then Gore likely beats Obama (~140M just in three general elections).

Other large countries that might be in the running as they elect presidents directly: Indonesia, Brazil, Nigeria. Not in the running because they don't elect presidents directly: India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and of course China.
posted by ssg at 11:14 AM on July 27, 2016

votes that are cast for an actual person, so not Narendra Modi's party getting 170 million votes.

I know what you're going on here but it's a little... misleading to say this isn't a vote for an actual person. Parliamentary party-based systems just don't explicitly have votes for individuals in an official way, even though the party has a leader and if that party wins a majority/plurality the leader is widely understood to become Prime Minister.

If you explicitly limit this to votes cast for an individual directly, then you're effectively limiting yourself to certain kinds of governments instead of looking at all democracies.

Something else to consider: length of term will affect your numbers. For example, a US Senator serves a 6-year term while the House is a 2-year term. In Wyoming, which has only a single Representative, that Representative will "get more votes" because they'll run 3 times as often as the Senator, even if they receive less votes each time than the Senator's one time.

In short, you can find the person you're looking for (it's probably Obama, depending on how generous you want to be with your definition of 'legitimate' elections) but I'm not sure how meaningful it is.
posted by Tomorrowful at 11:15 AM on July 27, 2016 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: I'm not sure how meaningful it is.

I'm not really looking for anything "meaningful", just idly wondering.
posted by Etrigan at 11:18 AM on July 27, 2016

If we're counting votes for a President as also being a vote for their VP candidate, then that would put Bush I at around 180m.
posted by Doofus Magoo at 11:21 AM on July 27, 2016

"Parliamentary party-based systems just don't explicitly have votes for individuals in an official way"

That's not always true. In the Netherlands, it's possible to specify which candidate on the party list you want to give your preference to. The vast majority vote for the party leader, but it's a way to register your voice on things within a particular party. I've heard of women voting for the most prominent woman on the party list, for example.
posted by kevinbelt at 11:23 AM on July 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

Narendra Modi's party getting 170 million votes

Modi was going to be my answer. Largest democracy in the world.

If we're being really pedantic Obama only got 747 votes in the two general elections because the electoral college votes for president not the public.

But Obama directly, Probably Bush 1, if we go by ticket and count losing elections.

If we're open to parliament and direct votes it's likely Putin adding in his time as prime minister.
posted by French Fry at 11:31 AM on July 27, 2016 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Another thing to keep in mind is that some countries have multi-round voting -- e.g., Dilma Rousseff received over 100m votes just in the 2010 Brazilian presidential election.
posted by Doofus Magoo at 11:37 AM on July 27, 2016 [3 favorites]

I'm bored at work.

Obama: 163,519,751 (9 elections)
Bush 43: 130,595,037 (10 elections)
Clinton: 117,273,243 (20 elections)
Kerry: 77,105,841 (12 elections)
posted by kevinbelt at 11:37 AM on July 27, 2016

Bush 42: 209,421,741 (14 elections)
posted by politikitty at 11:47 AM on July 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

*Bush 41.

I'm not OP, but I don't think *I* would count elections where the individual was not on the top of the ticket (i.e., for GHWB with Reagan, which is the only way he gets to 209M).
posted by uberchet at 12:28 PM on July 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Looks like Dilma Rousseff's predecessor, Luis Lula de Silva, takes the crown so far -- with five presidential runs (three of which went to a second round), he's over 278 million (an impressive 135% of the population of Brazil), and that's not counting his state and congressional elections.

Anyone got any other multi-round direct elections?
posted by Etrigan at 12:40 PM on July 27, 2016 [2 favorites]

Lula received ~179 million votes total between 1989, 1994, 2002, and 2006.

As French Fry pointed out, Americans don't vote for presidents; it's as indirect as parliamentary systems, though in a different way, which is why popular vote winners can be presidential losers. :-)
posted by clawsoon at 12:41 PM on July 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Lula received ~179 million votes total between 1989, 1994, 2002, and 2006.

You're leaving out the first rounds (and 1998). He got 197M just in his victories (39,436,099 and 52,772,475 in 2002; 46,662,365 and 58,295,042 in 2006).
posted by Etrigan at 12:49 PM on July 27, 2016

Along with the GHBW numbers, some more screwing around with VP candidates produces this:
Al Gore, 1976-2000: 145,306,142 votes (9 elections)

FDR only picks up another 13 million votes from his 1920 VP run and two terms as governor of New York, which is nuts - he got a sixth of the votes running in New York in 1928 as the whole country gave him and Cox.
posted by The Bridge on the River Kai Ryssdal at 1:01 PM on July 27, 2016

You're leaving out the first rounds (and 1998).

Yep, I wasn't thinking of multiple rounds. Even more impressive when you count those votes.

If an Indonesian president ever repeats, they'll be right up there, given that the winners in the last couple of elections have received ~70 million votes.
posted by clawsoon at 1:21 PM on July 27, 2016

Rajiv Gandhi was considered to have gained the largest mandate in Indian political history during the elections for Prime Minister after his mother was assassinated.
posted by infini at 7:16 PM on July 27, 2016

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