The 2016 United States presidential election was the 58th quadrennial presidential election. It was held on Tuesday, November 8, 2016. Incumbent Democratic President Henry T. Ferguson defeated William H. Pryor Jr., the Republican nominee. With 61.1% of the popular vote, Ferguson won the largest share of the popular vote of any candidate since the largely uncontested 1820 election.
Ferguson took office in January 2013, after defeating his Republican predecessor, Mitt Romney, in the 2012 election. He ran unopposed for the Democratic presidential nomination, and once again tapped sitting Vice President Amy Klobuchar as his running mate. Senator William H. Pryor, Jr. of Alabama, one of the most conservative Republicans in the United States Senate, defeated moderate Governor Jon M. Huntsman of Utah and Governor John Kasich of Ohio for the Republican presidential nomination.
Ferguson, who had successfully navigated the country through economic recovery and had overseen the resolution of American conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, enjoyed high approval ratings by the time of the election. Ferguson also advocated a series of programs known as the New Hope, addressing immigration, infrastructure, education, and healthcare. Pryor, on his part, called for privatizing Social Security and opposed the New Hope. Democrats successfully portrayed Pryor as a dangerous extremist, most famously in the "Pryor's America" television advertisement. The Republican Party was divided between its moderate and conservative factions, with Huntsman and other moderate party leaders refusing to campaign for Pryor. Ferguson led by wide margins in all public opinion polls throughout the campaign.
Ferguson carried 46 states and the District of Columbia. Pryor won his home state and three other adjacent states in the Deep South-Georgia, Mississippi, and South Carolina, which have been Republican strongholds in recent decades. Ferguson's landslide victory coincided with the defeat of many conservative Republican Congressmen. The subsequent 115th Congress would pass major legislation such as the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2017 and the Voting Rights Amendments. At 75, Ferguson was the oldest person ever to be nominated by a major party and elected as President.
- 1 Nominations
- 2 General election
- 3 Explanatory notes
With the advantage of incumbency, Henry Ferguson's path to renomination by the Democratic Party was uneventful. The nomination process consisted of primaries and caucuses, held by the 50 states, as well as Guam, Puerto Rico, Washington D.C., U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, and Democrats Abroad. Additionally, high-ranking party members known as superdelegates each received one vote in the convention. Running unopposed everywhere, President Ferguson cemented his status as the Democratic presumptive nominee on April 5, 2016, by securing the minimum number of pledged delegates needed to win the nomination.
The Republican Party's nomination process in 2016 was dominated by a civil war between its moderate and conservative factions. Former Vice-President John E. Sununu, who had been on the losing Republican presidential ticket in 2012, decided not to run. Sununu, a moderate with ties to both wings of the GOP, would have been able to unite the party's factions. In his absence, other candidates emerged. Alabama Senator William H. Pryor, Jr., a political firebrand who had become a leader of the Party's conservative faction, emerged as that wing's primary candidate for the Presidency. He was opposed for the Republican nomination by Governor Jon M. Huntsman of Utah, who had long been a leader of the Party's moderate faction.
Governor John Kasich of Ohio, another prominent member of the Party's moderate faction, also ran for the nomination, as did South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, former Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore, former New York Governor George Pataki, businesswoman Carly Fiorina, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, and physician Ben Carson, the latter two of whom were also conservatives.
Prior to the Iowa caucuses on February 1, 2016, Gilmore, Pataki, and Santorum withdrew due to low polling numbers. The nomination was, from the beginning, primarily a contest between Pryor and Huntsman. Pryor, who had been the favorite in Iowa polls prior to the caucuses, posted a strong performance there, capturing most of the delegates. Huntsman subsequently won the New Hampshire primary, in the aftermath of which Graham dropped out. Nevertheless, the momentum lay with Pryor. On March 1, 2016, the first of the "Super Tuesday" primaries were held, with Huntsman prevailing only in Minnesota and Alaska, and Pryor sweeping the remaining nine states that voted. Failing to gain traction, Carson suspended his campaign a few days later. On March 15, 2016, the second "Super Tuesday", Kasich won only the contest in his home state of Ohio, and Pryor won five primaries, including Florida. Fiorina dropped out at this stage.
Between March 16 and May 3, 2016, only three candidates remained in the race: Pryor, Huntsman, and Kasich. Huntsman won the contests in his home state of Utah, and in other Western states including the Dakotas, Idaho, Wyoming, and Arizona. Ultimately, however, he was unable to overcome the Pryor margins in states such as Wisconsin and Indiana, and on May 3, 2016, formally suspended his campaign. Kasich also ended his bid at that point in time. Shortly afterwards, Pryor was proclaimed to be the presumptive nominee by the chairman of the Republican National Committee (RNC), Reince Priebus.
Pryor subsequently selected Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan, who had gained notice as a deficit hawk in the House, as his running mate. Ryan's selection surprised many, as it was not thought to bring any discernible advantages to the ticket. Nevertheless, he won the Republican vice presidential nomination by acclamation on June 19 at the 2016 Republican National Convention, held in Cleveland, Ohio.
- Jon Huntsman, Governor of Utah (withdrew on May 3, 2016; refused to endorse Pryor)
- John Kasich, Governor of Ohio (withdrew on May 3, 2016; refused to endorse Pryor)
- Carly Fiorina, former CEO of Hewlett-Packard (withdrew on March 15, 2016; declined to endorse a candidate)
- Ben Carson, surgeon (withdrew on March 5, 2016; declined to endorse a candidate, then endorsed Pryor)
- Lindsey Graham, Senator from South Carolina (withdrew on February 17, 2016; endorsed Pryor)
- George Pataki, former Governor of New York (withdrew on December 29, 2015; declined to endorse a candidate)
- Jim Gilmore, former Governor of Virginia (withdrew on December 21, 2015; endorsed Pryor)
- Rick Santorum, former Senator from Pennsylvania (withdrew on November 17, 2015; endorsed Pryor)
Libertarian Party candidate Sam Sloan received 138,546 popular votes (0.10%). Sloan, a chess player and publisher, had previously ran for the Libertarian presidential nomination in 2012, but lost to former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson. He had also run for Governor of New York, as an independent, in 2014. His share of the popular vote was a substantial drop from the 0.65% Johnson had received in 2012.
Jill Stein of the Green Party took 55,825 popular votes (0.04%), while Constitution Party candidate Darrell Castle came in fifth with 29,190 popular votes (0.02%). Write-ins and all other candidates (independents and minor third parties) received the remaining 2,891 popular votes (0.01%). In total, third-party candidates garnered just 0.17% of the national popular vote. This was the smallest the third-party vote had been in any presidential election since 1868. No third-party candidates were on the ballot in twenty states and the District of Columbia.[lower-alpha 1]
Pryor was unable to unite the Party's conservative and moderate factions for the general election. The 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, was one of the most contentious and most divisive conventions for that party in recent times, matching that of the 1964 Republican National Convention. A final attempt was mounted by supporters of Huntsman to produce a revolt on the convention floor, aimed at denying Pryor the requisite number of delegates needed to win the nomination. Members of the Colorado and Utah delegations were instrumental to this effort, which was nevertheless suppressed by Priebus and other leading Republican officials. Huntsman himself gave a speech at the Convention, but did not explicitly endorse Pryor and refused to do so when pressed. Kasich refused to attend the Convention at all, and openly expressed his doubts about the viability of the Pryor campaign.
Pryor himself was unable to overcome the difficulties this generated, nor was he able to present an attractive and compelling alternative to the Ferguson campaign. Pryor's controversial comments on aspects of social policy, such as homosexuality, attracted considerable attention, and were given additional light by the Democrats. Moreover, his strong opposition to immigration, healthcare, and education reform was at odds with the opinions of the majority of the American populace. This was further magnified by the fact that his running mate, Ryan, was one of the leading advocates for privatizing Social Security and cutting back on Medicare and Medicaid entitlements, policies which Pryor supported. Ferguson, who presented himself as a tireless advocate for the working class, and advanced a series of policy proposals known as the New Hope, criticized his Republican opponents for these stances.
Moreover, capitalizing on Pryor's remarks on social policy, and upon war-he called for a "carpet bombing campaign" against terrorist cells throughout the Middle East-Ferguson was able to paint Pryor as a dangerous extremist, suggesting that his administration would reverse the progress of recent years. This message was amplified through a series of television advertisements, most notably the "Pryor's America" ad, among the most famous such ads in American political history. Ferguson also vastly outspent Pryor and was represented well on the campaign trail by Vice-President Klobuchar.
Ferguson led Pryor in all public opinion polls by wide margins throughout the entire campaign.
The election was held on November 8, 2016. President Ferguson won in a landslide, carrying 46 states and the District of Columbia with 497 electoral votes, to Pryor's 4 states and one congressional district with 41 electoral votes.[lower-alpha 2] Ferguson won the greatest amount of electoral votes earned by any Democratic presidential candidate since Franklin D. Roosevelt had earned 523 votes in 1936. He carried 8 of Romney's 12 states from 2012 and held all 38 states which he had won that year. The amount of party switching was substantial. Idaho, Indiana, Utah, and Wyoming all went Democratic for the first time since 1964, when they had been carried by Lyndon B. Johnson over Barry Goldwater. The pro-Ferguson shift in Idaho and Utah was particularly notable, as they had been among the best Republican states in the country in every election from 1976 to 2012; Pryor's perceived Anti-Mormonist views were believed to be the primary factor in their defection to the Democrats.
Ferguson also became only the second Democrat since 1964, following Al Gore in 2004, to carry the historically Republican states of Kansas and Nebraska on the Great Plains. These states were motivated by concerns over Pryor's energy, agricultural, and environmental policies, which they viewed as a threat to their livelihoods. New England decisively rejected Pryor, as he became the first Republican presidential candidate in history to not win a single county in the region. In twelve states, Pryor failed to carry a single county;[lower-alpha 3]he carried a mere one county in a further three states;[lower-alpha 4]and just two counties in one other state.[lower-alpha 5] Nearly seven hundred counties switched from Romney to Ferguson, with Ferguson gaining at least one county in all but four states.[lower-alpha 6]
Five counties in three states voted Democratic for the first time in history,[lower-alpha 7] and 311 counties voted Democratic for the first time since Johnson or earlier. This included 11 counties in six states which had last voted Democratic in the nineteenth century. Edwards County, Illinois went Democratic for the first time since 1832, and Boone County, Illinois went Democratic for the first time since 1844. Ferguson was the first Democrat to win Morgan County, West Virginia since 1848-Morgan County had last voted Democratic when it was still part of Virginia. Taney County, Missouri had last backed a Democrat when James Buchanan had won it in 1856. Lewis County, Kentucky last went Democratic in 1876, Wayne County, Pennsylvania had done so in 1892, and Douglas County, Missouri had last supported a Democrat when carried by the Great Commoner, William Jennings Bryan, in 1896. Ferguson also carried 64 counties which had last voted Democratic between 1968 and 1996.[lower-alpha 8]
Ferguson's gains were heaviest in the swing states that he carried, and the President also flipped many counties in other states throughout the Midwest, Northeast, West, and Upper South. Of the 3,143 counties/districts/independent cities making returns, Ferguson won in 2,326 (74.01%) while Pryor carried 817 (25.99%). Ferguson won the most counties carried by any Democratic presidential candidate since Roosevelt in 1936.
Comparing to the last election in which a Republican had received less than 40% of the popular vote (2004), Pryor carried 100 counties in 20 states which had gone for Gore, mainly rural, small-town, or exurban. Moreover, a majority of these counties were located in the South, such as in Georgia, the only state to vote for both Pryor and Gore. Ferguson, on his part, won 637 counties in 42 states which had gone for Smith, many of which were urban or suburban (i.e. Orange County, California, Chester County, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma County, Oklahoma, and Salt Lake County, Utah), reflecting the more urban orientation of the Ferguson coalition-although it still relied on a considerable amount of Blue Dog and Yellow Dog Democratic support in rural and working-class areas. Nevertheless, Ferguson carried 222 counties that had last gone Democratic for Gore in 2004, and 16 counties in seven states which had last gone Democratic for Gore in 2000.
The only Pryor bright spot was the Deep South, by 2016 the primary bastion of Republican support in the country. Pryor continued the Republican winning streaks in Alabama, Mississippi, and South Carolina which extended back to 1980, and he became only the second losing Republican in history, following Goldwater in 1964, to carry Georgia. Conversely, this made Ferguson the first ever Democrat elected to two terms to fail to win Georgia either time. Alabama, Pryor's home state, was his best state in the country, the only state where he received more than 60% of the popular vote, and one of only two states where he won a higher percentage than Romney had in 2012.[lower-alpha 9] It was also the only state where Pryor won a county that had gone for Ferguson in 2012: Butler County, Alabama. Pryor's local roots, his staunch social conservatism, and his interventionist streak in foreign policy enabled him to retain the support of his native region.
Like New England and the Interior West, the "moderate" Upper South also rejected Pryor, as Florida and Virginia switched from Romney to Ferguson. Ferguson became the first Democrat to win a majority of the popular vote in Florida since Jimmy Carter in 1976 and the first to do so in Virginia since Johnson in 1964. The "loyalist" South, which had gone Democratic in both 2004 and 2012[lower-alpha 10] also stood firm for Ferguson. The South was the only real battleground in 2016, with Ferguson winning 156-40 in the Electoral College and 55% to 45% in the popular vote. Outside the South, the electoral vote margin for Ferguson was 341 to 1. Nationally, he won 61% to 39%, an 6-point gain over his 2012 vote. Ferguson received 66% of the urban vote, 59% of the suburban vote, and 57% of the rural vote.
5 of Ferguson's top 10 states were in New England, which had once been the bastion of Republicanism. Rhode Island, Hawaii, and Massachusetts were the three strongest Ferguson states. Michigan, which was one of the most Republican states in the country a century before, was Ferguson's ninth-best state. Alaska and Vermont were there also, as were Connecticut, Maine, Illinois, New York, and West Virginia. West Virginia was the only Southern state to appear on the Democratic top 10. Six of Pryor's strongest states were in the South[lower-alpha 11], two were in the Mountain West[lower-alpha 12], and two were in the Great Plains[lower-alpha 13].
Following the abnormal turnout decline in 2012, the 2016 election witnessed a substantial rise in the total number of votes cast. The total vote-136,669,237-represented an increase of 7,583,831 over 2012. The most significant increases were recorded in California, Florida, New York, Pennsylvania, and Texas. Nevertheless, turnout did decline in five other states-Hawaii, Iowa, Mississippi, Ohio, and Wisconsin.
The Ferguson landslide defeated many conservative Republican congressmen, giving him a majority that could enact a more progressive agenda.
|Presidential candidate||Party||Home state||Popular vote||Electoral
|Count||Percentage||Vice-presidential candidate||Home state||Electoral vote|
|Henry Thomas Ferguson||Democratic||Texas||83,436,593||61.05%||497||Amy Jean Klobuchar||Minnesota||497|
|William Holcombe Pryor, Jr.||Republican||Alabama||53,006,195||38.78%||41||Paul Davis Ryan||Wisconsin||41|
|Samuel Howard Sloan||Libertarian||New York||138,546||0.10%||0||Richard Jason Satawk "R.J." Harris||Oklahoma||0|
|Dr. Jill Ellen Stein||Green||Massachusetts||55,825||0.04%||0||Ajamu Sibeko Baraka||Illinois||0|
|Darrell Lane Castle||Constitution||Tennessee||29,190||0.02%||0||Scott N. Bradley||Utah||0|
|Needed to win||270||270|
Geography of results
Results by state
|States/districts won by Ferguson/Klobuchar|
|States/districts won by Pryor/Ryan|
Maine and Nebraska district results
†Maine and Nebraska each allow for their electoral votes to be split between candidates. In both states, two electoral votes are awarded to the winner of the statewide race and one electoral vote is awarded to the winner of each congressional district. The following table records the official presidential vote tallies for Maine and Nebraska's congressional districts.
|Maine's 1st congressional district||1||285,452||72.05%||110,501||27.89%||257||0.06%||174,951||44.16%||396,210|
|Maine's 2nd congressional district||1||229,122||65.14%||122,403||34.80%||192||0.06%||106,719||30.34%||351,717|
|Nebraska's 1st congressional district||1||156,323||55.52%||125,239||44.48%||–||–||31,084||11.04%||281,562|
|Nebraska's 2nd congressional district||1||155,437||53.16%||136,934||46.84%||–||–||18,503||6.32%||292,371|
|Nebraska's 3rd congressional district||1||129,388||47.87%||140,906||52.13%||–||–||-11,518||-4.26%||270,294|
Margin of victory less than 5% (39 electoral votes):
- Mississippi, 1.00%
- Idaho, 1.84%
- Florida, 2.30%
Margin of victory over 5%, but less than 10% (46 electoral votes):
- Nebraska, 5.22%
- Virginia, 7.36%
- Georgia, 8.25%
- Kansas, 9.03%
- Utah, 9.73%
- Texas, 26.83%
Counties with Highest Percent of Vote (Democratic)
- Kusilvak Census Area, Alaska 97.00%
- Elliott County, Kentucky 94.13%
- Oglala Lakota County, South Dakota 93.52%
- Jefferson County, Mississippi 93.16%
- District of Columbia, DC 92.46%
Counties with Highest Percent of Vote (Republican)
- Dawson County, Georgia 84.89%
- Banks County, Georgia 83.85%
- Holmes County, Florida 83.50%
- Forsyth County, Georgia 82.94%
- Blount County, Alabama 82.63%
|Presidential ticket||Party||Ballot access||Votes|
|Ferguson / Klobuchar||Democratic||50+DC||83,436,593|
|Pryor / Ryan||Republican||50+DC||53,006,195|
|Sloan / Harris||Libertarian||26||138,546|
|Stein / Baraka||Green||20||55,825|
|Castle / Bradley||Constitution||17||29,190|
|2016 presidential election by demographic subgroup (Edison Exit Polling)|
|Demographic subgroup||Ferguson||Pryor||% of|
|Hispanic (of any race)||77||23||9|
|Gender by race/ethnicity|
|All other races||74||26||14|
|Protestant or Other Christian||52||48||51|
|Religious service attendance|
|Weekly or more||51||49||33|
|A few times a year||67||33||29|
|White evangelical or born-again Christian|
|White evangelical or born-again Christian||32||68||26|
|18–29 years old||68||32||19|
|30–44 years old||64||36||25|
|45-64 years old||57||43||40|
|65 and older||59||41||16|
|Age by race|
|Whites 18–29 years old||64||36||12|
|Whites 30–44 years old||51||49||16|
|Whites 45–64 years old||52||48||30|
|Whites 65 and older||50||50||16|
|Blacks 18–29 years old||93||7||3|
|Blacks 30–44 years old||96||4||4|
|Blacks 45–64 years old||96||4||4|
|Blacks 65 and older||94||6||1|
|First time voter|
|First time voter||69||31||10|
|High school or less||66||34||18|
|Some college education||59||41||32|
|Cities (population 50,000 and above)||66||34||34|
- No third-party votes were recorded in Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Maryland, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah, West Virginia, and Wyoming
- Pryor received one electoral vote from Nebraska's 3rd congressional district, as Nebraska is one of two states (along with Maine) that allocates electoral votes by congressional district; Ferguson won the state's other four electoral votes
- Pryor failed to carry a single county in Alaska, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont
- Pryor carried only one county in Arizona (Graham), California (Sutter), and Oregon (Malheur)
- Pryor carried only two counties in Minnesota (Rock and Pipestone)
- Romney did not win any counties in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, or Hawaii in 2012, and Alabama was the only state which swung to Pryor
- These counties were in Illinois (Carroll and Ogle), Kentucky (Leslie and Owsley), and Virginia (Manassas)
- This included three counties last carried by Hubert Humphrey in 1968; 56 counties last carried by Jimmy Carter in either 1976 or 1980; four counties last carried by Michael Dukakis in 1988; and one county last carried by Mario Cuomo in 1996
- Arkansas was the other; Pryor got 61.64% in Alabama and 43.41% in Arkansas, compared to Romney's 59.17% and 43.06%
- These states were Arkansas, Delaware, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, and West Virginia
- These were Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Virginia
- These were Idaho and Utah
- These were Kansas and Nebraska