President-elect Donald Trump may have won the White House, but it is Democrat Hillary Clinton who won the popular vote in the 2016 election.
As of Nov. 10, Clinton received 59.9 million votes while Trump received 59.6 million votes.
But crucially, the Republican is expected to win more than 300 of the United States’ Electoral College votes of which 270 is required to win the election – regardless of the how the majority of Americans cast their ballots.
It is a disparity that adds to the quirkiness of the United States’ election process and adds to the reasons why thousands of Americans are demonstrating in anti-Trump protests in several US cities.
Clinton’s concession to Trump has sparked calls among Democrats to reform the Electoral College system and has renewed several online petition efforts to have the system abolished altogether.
Back in 2012, Donald Trump lambasted the Electoral College system when President Barack Obama was re-elected. He likened the election system as a disaster for democracy and a “disgusting injustice”.
In the United States it is possible to win a presidential election without winning a clear majority.
Under the Electoral College system of votes, electors from each state vote directly for who will be the next president. The number of electors from each state is determined by population and they typically align their votes according to whichever candidate wins the majority vote in their state.
The system is designed so that heavily populated areas do not overshadow less urbanised parts of the country and so that each state has a proportional voice in determining who will be elected. It was also put in place by early American politicians fearful of majority mob rule who wanted to put a check on the power of the electorate.
But critics say the Electoral College gives less populated states more influence on an election while cutting down on that of more populated states.
The system, critics say, appears to favour the Republican party as they historically control more of the country’s less populated areas. When combined, these smaller states create a dependable Electoral College foundation for Republicans.
This means a candidate can receive more votes nationally from key cities, like Clinton did, and yet still lose the election.
Trump swept America’s mostly southern and midwestern rural heartlands, while Clinton drew support from the country’s larger urban centres along the east and west coasts.
According to national exit polls, Clinton received 59 percent of her votes from Americans living in large cities – while Trump received 62 percent of his from smaller rural communities.
White men, aged at least 45 and those without a university degree, overwhelmingly voted for Trump.
According to exit polls, 67 percent of non-university educated white men voted for Trump. Americans with, at most, a secondary school education voted 51 percent for Trump.
The breakdown of the election highlights the country’s divisions.
According to exit polls, 75 percent of non-white non-university educated voters and 71 percent of non-white university graduates voted for Clinton.
Young voters also overwhelmingly voted Democrat, with 55 percent of voters aged under 29 voting for Clinton.
But if Clinton maintains the popular vote, her election loss may likely be attributed to her campaign’s failure to mobilise voters overall and women, 42 percent of whom voted for Trump.
In 2004 President Bush received 62 million votes, or just more than 50 percent of the electorate.
Republican candidate for president in 2008, John McCain, received 59.9 million votes or 45.7 percent of the electorate.
Four years later, Mitt Romney received 47 million votes, or 47.2 percent, during the 2012 presidential election.
Obama in 2012 received 65.9 million votes. Four years prior, he received 69 million votes, according to historical popular vote tabulations by Cornell University.
David Yanagizawa-Drott, a professor of economics at the University of Zurich mapped out historical election turnout out figures using publically available data. According to his graph, Clinton appears to have failed to maintain the wave of popular support that buttressed President Obama.
When election turnout figures for each political party since 1992 are graphed, they show a declining participation among Democratic voters since Obama’s 2008 election victory, while Republican turnout has remained relatively unchanged since 2004.
If Clinton can hold on to her narrow lead she will be the first presidential candidate since 2000 to lose the election while winning the popular vote. Democrat Al Gore in 2000 similarly lost his election campaign against George W. Bush.
Clinton is the fifth presidential candidate to lose an election despite winning the popular vote. Throughout the 19th century, Andrew Jackson (Democratic-Republican), Samuel Tilden (Democrat) and Grover Cleveland (Democrat), each lost their election bids despite being the more popularly voted candidate.