1916 United States presidential election
531 members of the Electoral College
266 electoral votes needed to win
|Turnout||61.6% 2.8 pp|
Presidential election results map. Blue denotes those won by Wilson/Marshall, red denotes states won by Hughes/Fairbanks. Numbers indicate the number of electoral votes allotted to each state.
The 1916 United States presidential election was the 33rd quadrennial presidential election, held on Tuesday, November 7. Incumbent Democratic President Woodrow Wilson defeated former Governor of New York Charles Evans Hughes, the Republican candidate.
In June, the 1916 Republican National Convention chose Hughes as a compromise between the conservative and progressive wings of the party. Hughes defeated John W. Weeks, Elihu Root, and several other candidates on the third ballot of the convention. While conservative and progressive Republicans had been divided in the 1912 election between the candidacies of incumbent President William Howard Taft and former President Theodore Roosevelt, they largely united around Hughes in his bid to oust Wilson. As of 2020, Hughes remains the only current or former Supreme Court Justice to serve as a major party's presidential nominee. Wilson was re-nominated at the 1916 Democratic National Convention a few days later, without opposition.
The campaign took place against a background dominated by war — the Mexican Revolution and World War I. Although officially neutral in the European conflict, public opinion in the United States favored the Allied forces led by Great Britain and France against the German Empire and Austria-Hungary, due to the harsh treatment of civilians by the German Army and the militaristic character of the German and Austrian monarchies. Despite their sympathy for the Allied forces, most American voters wanted to avoid involvement in the war and preferred to continue a policy of neutrality. Wilson's campaign used the popular slogans "He kept us out of war." and "America First" to appeal to those voters who wanted to avoid a war in Europe or with Mexico. Hughes criticized Wilson for not taking the "necessary preparations" to face a conflict.
After a hard-fought contest, Wilson defeated Hughes by nearly 600,000 votes in the popular vote. Wilson secured a narrow majority in the Electoral College by sweeping the Solid South and winning several swing states with razor-thin margins. Wilson won California, the decisive state, by just 3,773 votes.
The United States entered the war in April 1917, one month after Wilson's second term began.
Democratic Party nomination
|Woodrow Wilson||Thomas R. Marshall|
|for President||for Vice President|
President of the United States
Vice President of the United States
The 1916 Democratic National Convention was held in St. Louis, Missouri between June 14 and 16. Given Wilson's incumbency and enormous popularity within the party, he was overwhelmingly re-nominated. Vice President Thomas R. Marshall was also re-nominated with no opposition.
Republican Party nomination
|Charles Evans Hughes||Charles W. Fairbanks|
|for President||for Vice President|
of the U.S. Supreme Court
Vice President of the United States
The 1916 Republican National Convention was held in Chicago between June 7 and 10.
A major goal of the party bosses at the convention was to heal the bitter split within the party that had occurred in the 1912 presidential campaign. Although several candidates were openly competing for the 1916 nomination — most prominently Senator Elihu Root of New York and Senator John W. Weeks of Massachusetts — the party's bosses wanted a moderate who would be acceptable to both factions of the party.
They turned to Supreme Court Justice Charles Evans Hughes, who had been serving on the court since 1910 and had the advantage of not having publicly spoken about political issues in six years. Although he had not actively sought the nomination, Hughes made it known that he would not turn it down. He won the nomination on the third ballot. Former Vice President Charles W. Fairbanks was nominated as his running mate. As of 2020 Hughes remains the only active Supreme Court Justice to be nominated for president by a major political party.
|Charles Evans Hughes||253||326||950|
|John W. Weeks||105||102||2|
|Charles W. Fairbanks||89||75||7|
|Albert B. Cummins||85||77||2|
|Theodore E. Burton||78||69||9|
|Lawrence Yates Sherman||66||59||5|
|Philander C. Knox||36||30||6|
|Martin Grove Brumbaugh||29||22||2|
|Robert M. La Follette||25||25||23|
|William Howard Taft||14||4||0|
|T. Coleman du Pont||7||13||6|
|Henry Cabot Lodge||7||2||0|
|Frank B. Willis||1||2||2|
|Warren G. Harding||1||0||1|
|Samuel W. McCall||0||1||1|
Progressive Party nomination
|1916 Progressive Party ticket|
|for President||for Vice President|
|N/A||Businessman and 1916 nominee for Governor of Louisiana|
For Vice President, Progressives nominated businessman John Parker of Louisiana, who had run an unsuccessful campaign. California Governor Hiram Johnson was suggested for renomination, and Chairman of the Party Convention Raymond Robins was proposed, but both withdrew their names in favor of Parker.
However, Roosevelt later telegraphed the convention and declared that he could not accept their nomination and would be endorsing Republican nominee Charles Hughes for the Presidency. Roosevelt turned down the Progressive nomination for both personal and political reasons. He was convinced that running for president on a third-party ticket again would merely give the election to the Democrats and had developed a strong dislike for President Wilson. He also believed Wilson was allowing Germany and other warring nations in Europe to "bully" and intimidate the United States.
Former U.S. Representative Victor Murdock from Kansas pushed for a ticket consisting of William Jennings Bryan and Henry Ford but nothing came of it. Some, like National Committeeman Harold L. Ickes, refused to consider endorsing Hughes. There was some talk of replacing Roosevelt with Hiram Johnson or Gifford Pinchot. All those discussed refused to consider the notion, and by this point, some leaders like Henry Justin Allen had started to follow Roosevelt's lead and endorsed Hughes. Various state parties, such as those in Iowa and Maine, began to disband.
Finally, when the Progressive Party National Committee met in Chicago on June 26, those in attendance begrudgingly endorsed Hughes; even those like Ickes who had vehemently refused to consider granting an endorsement to Hughes began to recognize that without Roosevelt the party had no electoral staying power. There had been a weak attempt to replace Roosevelt on the ticket with the former Representative Victor Murdock from Kansas, but the motion was defeated 31 to 15.
With Roosevelt refusing their nomination, the Progressive Party quickly fell into disarray. Most members returned to the Republican Party, but a substantial minority supported Wilson for his efforts in keeping the United States out of World War I.
Without a presidential nominee, many in the party, notably Vice-Presidential nominee John Parker and Bainbridge Colby, remained steadfast in their refusal to support Hughes. Parker desired the presidential nomination himself. Colby, while opposed to the endorsement of Hughes, now considered a Progressive campaign impractical and privately supported Wilson. It appeared likely for a time that another convention would be called in early August, until a Conference held among the remaining representatives of the party in Indianapolis decided against it, while also narrowly voting against filling the vacancy that had been caused by Roosevelt's refusal to be placed on the ticket (though Parker remained the Vice-Presidential nominee). Electoral tickets would still be put in place where the Progressive Party remained organized in the hopes of electing enough electors so as to possibly hold the balance of power in a close contest between the Democratic and Republican candidates.
Socialist Party nomination
The initial frontrunner was the popular four-time nominee Eugene V. Debs, but he opted to instead run for Congress in his native Indiana, leaving the field open to other contenders. Allan Benson, a newspaper editor from New York, quickly came to dominate the field on a platform of his fervent opposition to militarism and proposal that all wars should be voted upon in a national referendum. Rather than a traditional nominating convention, the vote was conducted through a mail-order ballot, with Benson capturing 16,639 out of a total of 32,398 cast (to 12,264 for Maurer and 3,495 for Le Sueur). A vote for the Vice-Presidential nomination was jointly held with George Ross Kirkpatrick, a lecturer from New Jersey, winning the nomination 20,607 to 11,388 over Kate Richards O'Hare of Missouri.
During the campaign, Edward M. House was Wilson's top campaign advisor. Hodgson says, "he planned its structure; set its tone; guided its finance; chose speakers, tactics, and strategy; and, not least, handled the campaign's greatest asset and greatest potential liability: its brilliant but temperamental candidate." The Democrats built their campaign around the slogan, "He Kept Us Out of War," saying a Republican victory would mean war with both Mexico and Germany. Wilson's position was probably critical in winning the Western states.
Charles Evans Hughes advocated greater mobilization and preparedness for war. With Wilson having successfully pressured the Germans to suspend unrestricted submarine warfare, it was difficult for Hughes to attack Wilson's peace platform.
Hughes also attacked Wilson for his support of various "pro-labor" laws (such as limiting the workday to eight hours), on the grounds that they were harmful to business interests. His criticisms gained little traction, however, especially among factory workers who supported such laws. Hughes was helped by the vigorous support of popular former President Theodore Roosevelt, and by the fact that the Republicans were still the nation's majority party at the time.
Hughes made a key mistake in California. Just before the election, Hughes made a campaign swing through the state, but he never met with the powerful Republican Governor Hiram Johnson to seek his support. Johnson took this as a snub, and never gave Hughes his full support. Wilson carried California by 3,420 votes (0.3%) and with it the presidency.
The result was exceptionally close and the outcome remained in doubt for some time.
Results in doubt
Some New York newspapers declared Hughes the winner on Wednesday morning, including The World and The Sun, which erroneously published that six states (California, Idaho, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Washington, and Wyoming) had voted for Hughes.
A popular legend from the campaign states that Hughes went to bed on election night thinking that he was the newly elected president. When a reporter tried to telephone him the next morning to get his reaction to Wilson's comeback, someone[a] answered the phone and told the reporter that "the president is asleep." The reporter retorted, "When he wakes up, tell him he isn't the president."
By Wednesday evening, Wilson had secured 254 electoral votes in the counting, needing either California or Minnesota to claim victory. Democrats declared victory in California on Thursday afternoon, and the California Republican Party conceded defeat that night.
Wilson was the first Democratic president to win a second consecutive term since Andrew Jackson in 1832. Vice-President Thomas R. Marshall also earned the distinction of becoming the first vice-president of any party elected to a second term since John C. Calhoun in 1828. Together, Wilson and Marshall became the first incumbent ticket to win re-election, since James Monroe and Daniel D. Tompkins in 1820.
The electoral vote was one of the closest in U.S. history – with 266 votes needed to win, Wilson took thirty states for 277 electoral votes, while Hughes won eighteen states and 254 electoral votes. Wilson was the second president in US history to win re-election with a reduced percentage of the electoral vote, following James Madison in 1812. As the raw number of electors had actually increased during Madison's first term, Wilson was also the first president to receive fewer total electoral votes. This experience would be repeated by Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1940 and 1944 and by Barack Obama in 2012.
Wilson's popular vote margin of 3.1 percent was the smallest attained by a victorious sitting president until 2004.
The total popular vote cast in 1916 exceeded that of 1912 by 3,500,000. The very large total vote was an indication of an aroused public interest in the campaign. It was larger in every section, notably in the East North Central section. Some of this was due to the extension of suffrage to women in individual states. In Illinois, for example, the total vote was one million greater than in 1912. It increased by more than two hundred and sixty thousand in Kansas, and in Montana, it more than doubled.
Wilson's vote was 9,126,868, an increase of nearly three million. There was a gain in every section and in every state. Hughes, the nominee of the united Republican Party, polled more votes by nearly 1,000,000 than had ever been cast for a Republican candidate.
|Presidential candidate||Party||Home state||Popular vote||Electoral
|Count||Percentage||Vice-presidential candidate||Home state||Electoral vote|
|Thomas Woodrow Wilson (Incumbent)||Democratic||New Jersey||9,126,868||49.24%||277||Thomas Riley Marshall||Indiana||277|
|Charles Evans Hughes Sr.||Republican||New York||8,548,728||46.12%||254||Charles Warren Fairbanks||Indiana||254|
|Allan Louis Benson||Socialist||New York||590,524||3.19%||0||George Ross Kirkpatrick||New Jersey||0|
|James Franklin Hanly||Prohibition||Indiana||221,302||1.19%||0||Ira Landrith||Tennessee||0|
|None||Progressive||(n/a)||33,406||0.18%||0||John Milliken Parker Sr.||Louisiana||0|
|Arthur Elmer Reimer||Socialist Labor||Massachusetts||15,295||0.08%||0||Caleb Harrison||Illinois||0|
|Needed to win||266||266|
Source (Popular Vote): Leip, David. "1916 Presidential Election Results". Dave Leip's Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections. Retrieved July 28, 2005.
Results by state
The key state proved to be California, which Wilson won by only 3,800 votes out of nearly a million cast. If Hughes had carried California and its thirteen electoral votes, he would have won the election.
Although New Hampshire may not have been a deciding state in the election, the margin of victory for Wilson there was the second smallest ever recorded in an American presidential election at just 56 votes, behind Franklin Pierce's 25 vote victory in Delaware in 1852.[b]
In some of the states carried by Wilson, particularly in the South, the margin of popular vote was large. Wilson ran behind Hughes in New England, the Mid-Atlantic states, and in the East North Central section. His lead was not great in the West North Central, but was very large in the West South Central and Mountain as well as in the East South Central and South Atlantic sections. 1/2 of Wilson's total vote was cast in the 18 states that he did not carry.
To date this is the last presidential election in which North Dakota and South Dakota did not vote for the same candidate, with the only others being 1896 and 1912. This is the last time Illinois voted for a losing candidate until 1976, the last time Minnesota voted for a losing candidate until 1968, and the last time West Virginia voted for a losing candidate until 1952. It was the only time a Democrat was elected without winning West Virginia from the state's founding until 2008.[c]
This was the last election in which the Democrats won New Hampshire until 1936 and the last in which the Democrats won Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Maryland, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming until 1932.
Wilson was the last Democrat to win an election without carrying Minnesota, Massachusetts and Rhode Island (although he had previously won the two latter states in 1912). He was also the last Democrat elected to two terms without carrying Michigan and Pennsylvania either time. Although other Democrats since have won elections without one or both states,[d] they either only served one term or they carried them both in another Presidential election.
|States/districts won by Wilson/Marshall|
|States/districts won by Hughes/Fairbanks|
|Charles Evans Hughes
Margin of victory of less than 1% (52 electoral votes):
- New Hampshire, 0.06%
- Minnesota, 0.10%
- California, 0.38% (tipping point state)
- West Virginia, 0.94%
- Indiana, 0.97%
Margin of victory of less than 5% (77 electoral votes):
- North Dakota, 1.50%
- Delaware, 2.43%
- Oregon, 2.57%
- Connecticut, 3.15%
- New Mexico, 3.56%
- Missouri, 3.65%
- South Dakota, 3.90%
- Massachusetts, 3.93%
- Maine, 4.02%
- Washington, 4.25%
Margin of victory of between 5% and 10% (162 electoral votes):
- Rhode Island, 5.08%
- Kentucky, 5.41%
- Kansas, 5.86%
- Wisconsin, 6.59%
- New York, 7.02%
- Ohio, 7.67%
- Maryland, 8.02%
- Michigan, 8.04%
- Illinois, 9.23%
Results by county
Of the 3,022 counties making returns, Wilson led in 2,039 counties (67.47%). Hughes managed to carry only 976 counties (32.30%), the smallest number in the Republican column in a two-party contest during the Fourth Party System. Two counties (0.07%) split evenly between Wilson and Hughes. Although the Progressive Party had no presidential candidate (just candidates for presidential electors who were unpledged for president), they carried five counties (0.17%), whilst nine counties – 0.30 percent and the same as in 1912 – inhabited either by Native Americans without citizenship or disenfranchised African Americans failed to return a single vote. Wilson carried 200 counties that had never voted Democratic in a two-party contest prior to that time.
Counties with Highest Percent of Vote (Democratic)
- Dillon County, South Carolina 100.00%
- Hampton County, South Carolina 100.00%
- Jasper County, South Carolina 100.00%
- Tunica County, Mississippi 100.00%
- Echols County, Georgia 100.00%
Counties with Highest Percent of Vote (Republican)
- Leslie County, Kentucky 91.55%
- Sevier County, Tennessee 90.42%
- Zapata County, Texas 89.17%
- Jackson County, Kentucky 87.90%
- Johnson County, Tennessee 87.33%
Counties with Highest Percent of Vote (Other)
- Lafourche Parish, Louisiana 59.38%
- Glascock County, Georgia 53.79%
- Paulding County, Georgia 53.52%
- Fannin County, Georgia 51.29%
- Iberia Parish, Louisiana 47.59%
A continuous cartogram of the 1912 United States presidential election
The gains made by Wilson in this election were a novel phenomenon under the Fourth Party System. This shift of votes led some to believe that the Democratic Party might have the position of decided advantage in the election of 1920.
- President of the United States
- History of the United States (1865-1918)
- 1916 United States House of Representatives elections
- 1916 United States Senate elections
- Second inauguration of Woodrow Wilson
- Stories vary as to whether this person was his son, a butler, or a valet.
- Theodore Roosevelt won Maryland in 1904 by just fifty-one votes, but voters voted for individual presidential electors and only one Republican elector, Charles Bonaparte, survived the tally. Likewise, Henry Clay won Maryland by only four votes in 1832, but Maryland chose electors by district.
- West Virginia's electors were voted on separately, and one of Wilson's, Orland Depue, managed to win.
- Franklin Roosevelt in 1940, Harry Truman in 1948 and Jimmy Carter in 1976 won without Michigan. Roosevelt in 1932 and Truman in 1948 won without Pennsylvania.
- "Voter Turnout in Presidential Elections". The American Presidency Project. UC Santa Barbara.
- Frederick Luebke, Bonds of Loyalty: German-Americans and World War I (1974) pp 57–98.
- "Wilson for 'America First'", The Chicago Daily Tribune (October 12, 1915).
- Cooper, John Milton. Woodrow Wilson: A Biography, p. 278 (Vintage Books 2011).
- Garrett, Garet. Defend America First: The Antiwar Editorials of the Saturday Evening Post, 1939-1942, p. 13 (Caxton Press 2003).
- John Patrick Finnegan, Against the Specter of a Dragon: The Campaign for American Military Preparedness, 1914-1917 (1974) p. 164.
- "MOOSE ANGRY AND BITTER - Convention Ends in Gloom After Long Fight for Roosevelt. NAME HIM AMID CHEERS Three Minutes Afterward They Hear of the Republican Stampede to Hughes. COLONEL'S LETTER A BOMB Delegates Disperse Sadly When They Hear That He Conditionally Declines to Run. MOOSE CONVENTION CLOSES IN GLOOM" (PDF). The New York Times. June 11, 1916. Retrieved August 18, 2016.
- "BULL MOOSE CHIEFS GOING TO OYSTER BAY - Gov. Johnson and Others to Visit Roosevelt This Week to Discuss Party's Plans. DIVIDED ON THE FUTURE Some Leaders Insist on Third Ticket - - Henry Allen Announces He Will Support Hughes" (PDF). The New York Times. June 12, 1916. Retrieved August 18, 2016.
- "HUGHES INDORSED BY MOOSE COMMITTEE - National Body Adopts Suggestion of Roosevelt, 32 to 6, With 9 Members Not Voting. MOOSE INDORSES, HUGHES ACCEPTS" (PDF). The New York Times. June 27, 1916. Retrieved August 18, 2016.
- "MOOSE CONVENTION MAY NAME WILSON - Second Progressive National Gathering Will Meet at Chicago Aug. 5. LOOK TO COLBY TO LEAD Insurgents Get Democratic Assurances That They Will Have No Reason to Regret Flop" (PDF). The New York Times. July 25, 1916. Retrieved August 18, 2016.
- "MOOSE WON'T NAME ANOTHER CANDIDATE - Leaders at Indianapolis Conference, However, Severely Criticise Indorsement of Hughes. CALL ACTION A BETRAYAL Plan to Name Electoral Tickets in Some States and Unite with Other Parties After Election MOOSE WON'T NAME ANOTHER CANDIDATE" (PDF). The New York Times. August 4, 1916. Retrieved August 18, 2016.
- "A.L. BENSON HEADS SOCIALIST TICKET - Yonkers Man Nominated for the Presidency in Primary Taken by Mail. BALLOTS TOTALED 32,398 G.R. Kirkpatrick Chosen for Vice President - Berger and Hillquit Also Win" (PDF). The New York Times. March 12, 1916. Retrieved August 18, 2016.
- Godfrey Hodgson (2006). Woodrow Wilson's right hand: the life of Colonel Edward M. House. Yale University Press. p. 126.
- John Milton Cooper, Jr., Woodrow Wilson (2009) pp 341-2, 352, 360
- Merlo J. Pusey, Charles Evans Hughes (1951) vol 1 p 356
- "Hughes Elected by Narrow Margin". The Sun. New York. November 8, 1916. p. 1. Retrieved January 25, 2020 – via https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/.
- "Wilson Lacks Only 12 Out of Possible 38 Votes". Bridgeport Evening Farmer. Bridgeport, Connecticut. November 8, 1916. p. 1. Retrieved January 25, 2020 – via https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/.
- "Wilson Elected by Votes of California and North Dakota". The Ogden Standard. Ogden, Utah. November 9, 1916. p. 1. Retrieved January 25, 2020 – via https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/.
- David Leip's Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections; 1916 Election Statistics
- The Presidential Vote, 1896-1932, Edgar E. Robinson, pg. 17
- The Presidential Vote, 1896-1932, Edgar E. Robinson, pg. 17-19
- "1916 Presidential General Election Data - National". Uselectionatlas.org. Retrieved April 15, 2013.
- The Presidential Vote, 1896-1932, Edgar E. Robinson, pg. 19
- Cooper, Jr., John Milton. Woodrow Wilson (2009), ch 16.
- Davies, Gareth, and Julian E. Zelizer, eds. America at the Ballot Box: Elections and Political History (2015) pp. 118–38.
- Gould, Lewis L. The First Modern Clash Over Federal Power: Wilson Versus Hughes in the Presidential Election of 1916 (University Press of Kansas; 2016) 178 pages.
- Leary, William M., Jr. (1967). "Woodrow Wilson, Irish Americans, and the Election of 1916". The Journal of American History. 54 (1): 57–72. doi:10.2307/1900319. JSTOR 1900319.
- Link, Arthur Stanley (1954). Woodrow Wilson and the Progressive Era, 1910–1917. New York: Harper. Cite has empty unknown parameter:
- Link, Arthur Stanley (1965). Wilson: Campaigns For Progressivism and Peace 1916–1917. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Cite has empty unknown parameter:
- Lovell, S. D. (1980). The Presidential Election of 1916. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press. ISBN 0-8093-0965-3. Cite has empty unknown parameter:
- Pietrusza, David (2018). TR's Last War: Theodore Roosevelt, the Great War, and a Journey of Triumph and Tragedy. Guilford (CT): Lyons Press. Cite has empty unknown parameter:
- Pusey, Merlo J. (1951). Charles Evans Hughes. 1. New York: Macmillan. Cite has empty unknown parameter:
|coauthors=(help) volume 1 ch 31-34
- Chester, Edward W A guide to political platforms (1977) online
- Porter, Kirk H. and Donald Bruce Johnson, eds. National party platforms, 1840-1964 (1965) online 1840-1956
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to United States presidential election, 1916.|
- United States presidential election of 1916 at the Encyclopædia Britannica
- Presidential Election of 1916: A Resource Guide from the Library of Congress
- 1916 popular vote by counties
- How close was the 1916 election? at the Wayback Machine (archived August 25, 2012) — Michael Sheppard, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
- Election of 1916 in Counting the Votes