Unpopular Sovereignty

How many times in American history did the person who lost the popular vote get elected president?

  1. How accurate was your prediction?

  2. What story does the chart tell?

  3. What person who won the presidency lost the popular vote by the largest margin?

  4. What president won the popular vote by the largest margin?

  5. Does the person who lost the popular vote but won the presidency usually win reelection?

  6. Democracy means rule by the people. By the people, we mean the majority (most) or plurality (more) of the people. If one out of nine presidents are elected without wining the majority or plurality of the popular vote what does that tell us about American democracy?

  7. Explain how the popular vote loser can be the winner in American presidential campaigns?

  8. Explain whether U.S. congressional elections are more or less democratic than U.S. presidential elections.

  9. Describe one consequence of the fact that one of nine American presidents lost the popular vote?

  10. Imagine you played a pick-up basketball game and at the end of the game the team with the most points ended up losing. (Would you keep playing?) Explain how unpopular sovereignty (the loser winning) impacts voter turnout.

  11. The Framers of our nation did not once use the word democracy in the Constitution. They also built the electoral system that produces unpopular sovereigns (presidents who lost). What do you imagine the framers would think about the results of the 2016 election?

  12. Explain the impact of losing the popular vote but winning the presidency on the legitimacy and the rule of that president?

  13. Describe how losing the popular vote has impacted the Trump presidency.

  14. Based on the chart and your knowledge of American politics, do you anticipate that Donald Trump will win reelection (either with a majority or not)?

  15. How will the fact that the popular vote loser can win the presidency impact the 2020 presidential campaign?

  16. Explain whether you believe the United States should create a system to ensure that the winner of the popular vote wins the presidency.

Visual Extension


Learning Extension

Read about The National Popular Vote Plan, a voting method that would insure that the winner of the popular vote was always elected president.

Action Extension

Contact your state legislators to share your thoughts about the The National Popular Vote Plan.

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