The ten best US election stats

Including, how the Democrats have won the popular vote in five of the last six elections.

1. Barack Obama is the first US President since Franklin D. Roosevelt to win re-election with unemployment above 7.2 per cent. The jobless rate is currently 7.9 per cent, 0.7 per cent higher than the rate when Ronald Reagan won a second term in 1984. Roosevelt secured re-election in 1936 with unemployment at 16.6 per cent.

2. Based on exit polls, Obama won 93 per cent of the black vote, 73 per cent of the Asian vote, 71 per cent of the Hispanic vote and 39 per cent of the white vote. Nate Silver notes that "forty-five percent of those who voted for Mr. Obama were racial minorities, a record number".

3. Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are the first presidential ticket to lose both candidates' home states (Massachusetts and Wisconsin) since 1972 Democrat candidates George McGovern (South Dakota) and Sargent Shriver (Maryland).

4. Defying conservative predictions that he would win the Electoral College but lose the popular vote, Obama currently has 58,532,508 votes (50.2 per cent) to Romney's 56,353,802 (48.2 per cent).

5. Obama's re-election marks the first time the US has had three two-term presidencies in a row since Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and James Monroe.

6. As the Democrats quipped, "we've got ballots full of women". It was the female half of the US population that secured Obama's re-election, voting by 55 per cent to 44 per cent for the US president. Men, by contrast, voted for Romney by 52 per cent to 45 per cent.

7. The Democrats have won the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections (1992, 1996, 2000, 2008 and 2012). Al Gore won the popular vote against George W. Bush in 2000 by 543,895 (0.5 per cent) but lost the Electoral College to Bush by five votes (271 to 266).

8. Obama polled strongest among 18-29-year-olds (60 per cent), whilist Romney polled strongest among the over-65s (56 per cent).

9. Fifty six per cent of self-described "moderates" voted for Obama along with 86 per cent of liberals. Eighty two per cent of conservatives voted for Romney.

10. Obama's victory tweet - "Four more years" - has had 563,281 retweets and 189,641 favourites, making it the most popular tweet ever.

Barack Obama and family arrive on stage in Chicago, Illinois. Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Why Theresa May can't end speculation of an early general election

Both Conservative and Labour MPs regard a contest next year as the solution to their problems. 

One of Theresa May’s first acts as a Conservative leadership candidate was to rule out an early general election. After a tumultuous 2015 contest and the EU referendum, her view was that the country required a period of stability (a view shared by voters). Many newly-elected Tory MPs, fearful of a Brexit-inspired Ukip or Liberal Democrat surge, supported her on this condition.

After entering Downing Street, May reaffirmed her stance. “The Prime Minister could not have been clearer,” a senior source told me. “There won’t be an early election.” Maintaining this pledge is an important part of May’s straight-talking image.

But though No.10 has wisely avoided publicly contemplating an election (unlike Gordon Brown), the question refuses to die. The Conservatives have a majority of just 12 - the smallest of any single-party government since 1974 - and, as David Cameron found, legislative defeats almost inevitably follow. May’s vow to lift the ban on new grammar schools looks to many like an unachievable task. Former education secretary Nicky Morgan and former business minister Anna Soubry are among the Tories leading the charge against the measure (which did not feature in the 2015 Conservative manifesto).  

To this problem, an early election appears to be the solution. The Tories retain a substantial opinion poll lead over Labour, the most divided opposition in recent history. An election victory would give May the mandate for new policies that she presently lacks.

“I don’t believe Theresa May wishes to hold an early election which there is evidence that the country doesn’t want and which, given the current state of the Labour Party, might be seen as opportunistic,” Nigel Lawson told today’s Times“If, however, the government were to find that it couldn’t get its legislation through the House of Commons, then a wholly new situation would arise.”

It is not only Conservatives who are keeping the possibility of an early election alive. Many Labour MPs are pleading for one in the belief that it would end Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. An early contest would also pre-empt the boundary changes planned in 2018, which are forecast to cost the party 23 seats.

For Corbyn, the possibility of an election is a vital means of disciplining MPs. Allies also hope that the failed revolt against his leadership, which Labour members blame for the party’s unpopularity, would allow him to remain leader even if defeated.

Unlike her predecessors, May faces the obstacle of the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act (under which the next election will be on 7 May 2020). Yet it is not an insurmountable one. The legislation can be suspended with the backing of two-thirds of MPs, or through a vote of no confidence in the government. Alternatively, the act could simply be repealed or amended. Labour and the Liberal Democrats, who have demanded an early election, would struggle to resist May if she called their bluff.

To many, it simply looks like an offer too good to refuse. Which is why, however hard May swats this fly, it will keep coming back. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.