US Election 2024: Can a president win an election but lose the popular vote? 

In the US, a president can win the election but lose the popular vote due to the Electoral College system. A candidate needs 270 out of 538 electoral votes to win, regardless of the national popular vote total.


Yes, a president can win an election but lose the popular vote. This is because the position of the president and vice-president in the US is not determined by the popular vote but by the Electoral College.

What is the Electoral College?

The Electoral College is a process, not a place. This process includes: 

  • Selection of electors 
  • Meeting of electors who cast votes for the president and vice president
  • Counting of the electors’ votes by Congress

The election of the president and vice president is not determined by the popular votes; rather, they are chosen through the Electoral College.

Who is in the Electoral College?

The number of electors is as large as the number of lawmakers in the US Congress (the House and Senate). There are 538 electors in the Electoral College, including three in Washington, D.C. Each elector represents one electoral vote, and to win the presidency, a candidate needs to gain the vote of the majority of electors. Who is chosen to be elected, how, and when vary by state.

How does the Electoral College process work?

  • After casting your ballot for president, your vote goes to a statewide tally. In 48 states and Washington, D.C., the winner gets all the electoral votes for that state. Maine and Nebraska assign their electors using a proportional system.
  • A candidate needs the vote of at least more than half of all the electors, that is at least 270 electors, to win the presidential election.
  • In most cases, a projected winner is announced on election night in November after you vote. However, the actual Electoral College vote takes place in mid-December when the electors meet in their states.

What are the pros and cons of the Electoral College?

Although this is the method used for the presidential election, it does not mean it is perfect or accepted by all. Here are some advantages and disadvantages of the Electoral College method of electing the president:


  • Smaller states remain important to candidates.
  • Recounts are easier because officials can isolate the issue in one state.
  • Candidates don’t need to travel the whole country.


  • Lots of voters feel their vote doesn’t count.
  • Too much power resides in swing states (those states that swing to one party or the other in each)
  • Risk of fake electors (where individuals claiming to represent a state send in votes for the candidate who did not win. This is unlikely to ever impact the actual result)
  • The popular vote winner can lose the election.

Can a president win an election but lose the popular vote?

Yes, this is very possible, as the vote is not determined by the popular vote but by the Electoral College.

In fact, two out of the last six elections were won by candidates who had fewer votes from the general public.

Although the election of the president and that of the vice president is determined by the Electoral College, other positions are determined by popular votes.

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