If Biden does indeed go on to win the US presidential race of 2020, his winning record would be just about average among all other US presidents since WW2.
Almost 74m Americans voted for Biden – the highest votes cast for a president ever (first number column in the table below). We should celebrate that but we should also put it in the context of the overall statistics.
The incumbent president, Trump, won the second highest vote count ever, after Biden (second column), so more votes than the winner of any of the other presidential races before. The third highest absolute votes won by a president was Obama’s in his first term in 2008.
The above comparison should be put into the context of the American voting age population increasing naturally over the years (third column). In addition, total votes cast also tends to rise. But not necessarily, the latter may not keep up at the same pace of increase as voting age population – voter turnout decreases – or it may indeed go down in absolute terms – as it happened during the elections in 1988, 1996 and 2012 (foutyh column). This year’s election indeed had one of the highest turnouts of any election after WW2 (came second only to JFK-Nixon in 1960 – fifth column).
One way to account for the bias of naturally increasing absolute numbers is to take the difference between winner’s and runner-up’s votes = the winner’s margin. At around 4m, Biden’s margin is actually not that high: it is 12th out of 19 US presidential elections post WW2 – not that great (first number column below). Note that Trump’s win over Hilary Clinton had the worst absolute margin (negative) ever. Nixon in 1972 had the highest absolute margin of any US President, followed by Reagan in 1984. Most of us remember the contested election in 2000 between Bush Jnr and Gore (also negative margin), but I personally was surprised to find out that JFK in 1960 barely defeated Nixon.
Still even a winner’s margin carries a bit of bias of large numbers. So, next we calibrated it against voting age population (second column) and total votes cast (third column). Biden’s lead over Trump slumps one spot (from above) to 13th . The best winner’s margin still goes to Nixon in 1972 (using voting age population) and Johnson in 1964 (using total votes cast). Reagan in 1984 maintains third place in both cases.
How popular was really Biden relative to all other presidential winners? That record 74m votes cast looks just about average if we take into consideration either voting age population or total votes cast – Biden comes in the middle of all US Presidents after WW2. That was not surprising for me (he did get just marginally higher votes than Obama though). It was not surprising that Johnson got the top spot as well, as we got a hint above. What was surprising is how unpopular Clinton was (during both terms). Trump and Bush Jnr bring up the rear here.
Despite all the euphoria you may see in the media about Biden’s most likely presidential win in 2020, he not only underperformed pollsters’ forecasts and peoples’ expectations but, so far, even the hard results give him a mediocre ranking among all presidents’ post WW2.