1972 United States presidential election

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1972 United States presidential election

← 1968 November 7, 1972 1976 →

538 members of the Electoral College
270 electoral votes needed to win
Turnout56.2%[1] Decrease 6.3 pp
Nominee Richard Nixon George McGovern
Party Republican Democratic
Home state California South Dakota
Running mate Spiro Agnew Sargent Shriver
(replacing Thomas Eagleton)
Electoral vote 520[a] 17
States carried 49 1 + DC
Popular vote 47,168,710 29,173,222
Percentage 60.7% 37.5%

1972 United States presidential election in California1972 United States presidential election in Oregon1972 United States presidential election in Washington (state)1972 United States presidential election in Idaho1972 United States presidential election in Nevada1972 United States presidential election in Utah1972 United States presidential election in Arizona1972 United States presidential election in Montana1972 United States presidential election in Wyoming1972 United States presidential election in Colorado1972 United States presidential election in New Mexico1972 United States presidential election in North Dakota1972 United States presidential election in South Dakota1972 United States presidential election in Nebraska1972 United States presidential election in Kansas1972 United States presidential election in Oklahoma1972 United States presidential election in Texas1972 United States presidential election in Minnesota1972 United States presidential election in Iowa1972 United States presidential election in Missouri1972 United States presidential election in Arkansas1972 United States presidential election in Louisiana1972 United States presidential election in Wisconsin1972 United States presidential election in Illinois1972 United States presidential election in Michigan1972 United States presidential election in Indiana1972 United States presidential election in Ohio1972 United States presidential election in Kentucky1972 United States presidential election in Tennessee1972 United States presidential election in Mississippi1972 United States presidential election in Alabama1972 United States presidential election in Georgia1972 United States presidential election in Florida1972 United States presidential election in South Carolina1972 United States presidential election in North Carolina1972 United States presidential election in Virginia1972 United States presidential election in West Virginia1972 United States presidential election in the District of Columbia1972 United States presidential election in Maryland1972 United States presidential election in Delaware1972 United States presidential election in Pennsylvania1972 United States presidential election in New Jersey1972 United States presidential election in New York1972 United States presidential election in Connecticut1972 United States presidential election in Rhode Island1972 United States presidential election in Vermont1972 United States presidential election in New Hampshire1972 United States presidential election in Maine1972 United States presidential election in Massachusetts1972 United States presidential election in Hawaii1972 United States presidential election in Alaska1972 United States presidential election in the District of Columbia1972 United States presidential election in Maryland1972 United States presidential election in Delaware1972 United States presidential election in New Jersey1972 United States presidential election in Connecticut1972 United States presidential election in Rhode Island1972 United States presidential election in Massachusetts1972 United States presidential election in Vermont1972 United States presidential election in New Hampshire
Presidential election results map. Red denotes states won by Nixon/Agnew and Blue denotes those won by McGovern/Shriver. Gold is the electoral vote for Hospers/Nathan by a Virginia faithless elector. Numbers indicate electoral votes cast by each state and the District of Columbia.

President before election

Richard Nixon

Elected President

Richard Nixon

The 1972 United States presidential election was the 47th quadrennial presidential election held on Tuesday, November 7, 1972. Incumbent Republican president Richard Nixon defeated Democratic U.S. senator George McGovern in a landslide victory. With 60.7% of the popular vote, Richard Nixon won the largest share of the popular vote for the Republican Party in any presidential election.

Nixon swept aside challenges from two Republican representatives in the Republican primaries to win renomination. McGovern, who had played a significant role in changing the Democratic nomination system after the 1968 presidential election, mobilized the anti-Vietnam War movement and other liberal supporters to win his party's nomination. Among the candidates he defeated were early front-runner Edmund Muskie, 1968 nominee Hubert Humphrey, governor George Wallace, and representative Shirley Chisholm.

Nixon emphasized the strong economy and his success in foreign affairs, while McGovern ran on a platform calling for an immediate end to the Vietnam War and the institution of a guaranteed minimum income. Nixon maintained a large lead in polling. Separately, Nixon's reelection committee broke into the Watergate complex to wiretap the Democratic National Committee's headquarters as part of the Watergate scandal. McGovern's general election campaign was damaged early on by revelations from his running mate Thomas Eagleton, as well as the perception that McGovern's platform was radical. Eagleton had undergone electroconvulsive therapy as a treatment for depression, and he was replaced by Sargent Shriver after only nineteen days on the ticket.

Nixon won the election in a landslide victory, taking 60.7% of the popular vote and carrying 49 states and becoming the first Republican to sweep the South, whereas McGovern took just 37.5% of the popular vote. Meanwhile, this marked the last time the Republican nominee carried Minnesota in a presidential election. This also made Nixon the first two-term vice president to be elected president twice. The 1972 election was the first since the ratification of the 26th Amendment, which lowered the voting age from 21 to 18, further expanding the electorate.

Both Nixon and his vice president Spiro Agnew would resign from office within two years of the election. The latter resigned due to a bribery scandal in October 1973, and the former resigned in the face of likely impeachment and conviction as a result of the Watergate scandal in August 1974. Republican House Minority Leader Gerald Ford replaced Agnew as vice president in December 1973, and thus, replaced Nixon as president in August 1974. Ford remains the only person in American history to become president without winning an election for president or vice president.

Despite this election delivering Nixon's greatest electoral triumph, Nixon later wrote in his memoirs that "it was one of the most frustrating and in many ways the least satisfying of all".[2]

Republican nomination[edit]

Republican candidates:

Republican Party (United States)
Republican Party (United States)
1972 Republican Party ticket
Richard Nixon Spiro Agnew
for President for Vice President
President of the United States
Vice President of the United States


Nixon was a popular incumbent president in 1972, as he was credited with opening the People's Republic of China as a result of his visit that year, and achieving détente with the Soviet Union. Polls showed that Nixon held a strong lead in the Republican primaries. He was challenged by two candidates: liberal Pete McCloskey from California, and conservative John Ashbrook from Ohio. McCloskey ran as an anti-war candidate, while Ashbrook opposed Nixon's détente policies towards China and the Soviet Union. In the New Hampshire primary, McCloskey garnered 19.8% of the vote to Nixon's 67.6%, with Ashbrook receiving 9.7%.[3] Nixon won 1323 of the 1324 delegates to the Republican convention, with McCloskey receiving the vote of one delegate from New Mexico. Vice President Spiro Agnew was re-nominated by acclamation; while both the party's moderate wing and Nixon himself had wanted to replace him with a new running-mate (the moderates favoring Nelson Rockefeller, and Nixon favoring John Connally), it was ultimately concluded that such action would incur too great a risk of losing Agnew's base of conservative supporters.

Primary results[edit]

1972 Republican Party presidential primaries[4]
Candidate Votes %
Richard M. Nixon (incumbent) 5,378,704 86.9
Unpledged delegates 317,048 5.1
John M. Ashbrook 311,543 5.0
Paul N. McCloskey 132,731 2.1
George C. Wallace 20,472 0.3
"None of the names shown" 5,350 0.1
Others 22,433 0.4
Total votes 6,188,281 100


Seven members of Vietnam Veterans Against the War were brought on federal charges for conspiring to disrupt the Republican convention.[5] They were acquitted by a federal jury in Gainesville, Florida.[5]

Democratic nomination[edit]

Overall, fifteen people declared their candidacy for the Democratic Party nomination. They were:[6][7]

Democratic Party (United States)
Democratic Party (United States)
1972 Democratic Party ticket
George McGovern Sargent Shriver
for President for Vice President
U.S. Senator
from South Dakota
U.S. Ambassador to France


Senate Majority Whip Ted Kennedy, the youngest brother of late President John F. Kennedy and late United States Senator Robert F. Kennedy, was the favorite to win the 1972 nomination, but he announced he would not be a candidate.[8] The favorite for the Democratic nomination then became Maine Senator Ed Muskie,[9] the 1968 vice-presidential nominee.[10] Muskie's momentum collapsed just prior to the New Hampshire primary, when the so-called "Canuck letter" was published in the Manchester Union-Leader. The letter, actually a forgery from Nixon's "dirty tricks" unit, claimed that Muskie had made disparaging remarks about French-Canadians – a remark likely to injure Muskie's support among the French-American population in northern New England.[11] Subsequently, the paper published an attack on the character of Muskie's wife Jane, reporting that she drank and used off-color language during the campaign. Muskie made an emotional defense of his wife in a speech outside the newspaper's offices during a snowstorm. Though Muskie later stated that what had appeared to the press as tears were actually melted snowflakes, the press reported that Muskie broke down and cried, shattering the candidate's image as calm and reasoned.[11][12]

Nearly two years before the election, South Dakota Senator George McGovern entered the race as an anti-war, progressive candidate.[13] McGovern was able to pull together support from the anti-war movement and other grassroots support to win the nomination in a primary system he had played a significant part in designing.

On January 25, 1972, New York Representative Shirley Chisholm announced she would run, and became the first African-American woman to run for a major-party presidential nomination. Hawaii Representative Patsy Mink also announced she would run, and became the first Asian American person to run for the Democratic presidential nomination.[14]

On April 25, George McGovern won the Massachusetts primary. Two days later, journalist Robert Novak quoted a "Democratic senator", later revealed to be Thomas Eagleton, as saying: "The people don't know McGovern is for amnesty, abortion, and legalization of pot. Once middle America – Catholic middle America, in particular – finds this out, he's dead." The label stuck, and McGovern became known as the candidate of "amnesty, abortion, and acid". It became Humphrey's battle cry to stop McGovern—especially in the Nebraska primary.[15][16]

Alabama Governor George Wallace, an infamous segregationist who ran on a third-party ticket in 1968, did well in the South (winning nearly every county in the Florida primary) and among alienated and dissatisfied voters in the North.[17] What might have become a forceful campaign was cut short when Wallace was shot in an assassination attempt by Arthur Bremer on May 15. Wallace was struck by five bullets and left paralyzed from the waist down. The day after the assassination attempt, Wallace won the Michigan and Maryland primaries, but the shooting effectively ended his campaign, and he pulled out in July.

In the end, McGovern won the nomination by winning primaries through grassroots support, in spite of establishment opposition. McGovern had led a commission to re-design the Democratic nomination system after the divisive nomination struggle and convention of 1968. However, the new rules angered many prominent Democrats whose influence was marginalized, and those politicians refused to support McGovern's campaign (some even supporting Nixon instead), leaving the McGovern campaign at a significant disadvantage in funding, compared to Nixon. Some of the principles of the McGovern Commission have lasted throughout every subsequent nomination contest, but the Hunt Commission instituted the selection of superdelegates a decade later, in order to reduce the nomination chances of outsiders such as McGovern and Jimmy Carter.

Primary results[edit]

Statewide contest by winner
  No primary held
1972 Democratic Party presidential primaries[4]
Candidate Votes %
Hubert H. Humphrey 4,121,372 25.8
George S. McGovern 4,053,451 25.3
George C. Wallace 3,755,424 23.5
Edmund S. Muskie 1,840,217 11.5
Eugene J. McCarthy 553,955 3.5
Henry M. Jackson 505,198 3.2
Shirley A. Chisholm 430,703 2.7
James T. Sanford 331,415 2.1
John V. Lindsay 196,406 1.2
Sam W. Yorty 79,446 0.5
Wilbur D. Mills 37,401 0.2
Walter E. Fauntroy 21,217 0.1
Unpledged delegates 19,533 0.1
Edward M. Kennedy 16,693 0.1
Rupert V. Hartke 11,798 0.1
Patsy M. Mink 8,286 0.1
"None of the names shown" 6,269 0
Others 5,181 0
Total votes 15,993,965 100

Notable endorsements[edit]

Edmund Muskie

George McGovern

George Wallace

Shirley Chisholm

Terry Sanford

Henry M. Jackson

1972 Democratic National Convention[edit]

Video from the Florida conventions


Vice presidential vote[edit]

Most polls showed McGovern running well behind incumbent President Richard Nixon, except when McGovern was paired with Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy. McGovern and his campaign brain trust lobbied Kennedy heavily to accept the bid to be McGovern's running mate, but he continually refused their advances, and instead suggested U.S. Representative (and House Ways and Means Committee chairman) Wilbur Mills from Arkansas and Boston Mayor Kevin White.[33] Offers were then made to Hubert Humphrey, Connecticut Senator Abraham Ribicoff, and Minnesota Senator Walter Mondale, all of whom turned it down. Finally, the vice presidential slot was offered to Senator Thomas Eagleton from Missouri, who accepted the offer.[33]

With hundreds of delegates displeased with McGovern, the vote to ratify Eagleton's candidacy was chaotic, with at least three other candidates having their names put into nomination and votes scattered over 70 candidates.[34] A grassroots attempt to displace Eagleton in favor of Texas state representative Frances Farenthold gained significant traction, though was ultimately unable to change the outcome of the vote.[35]

The vice-presidential balloting went on so long that McGovern and Eagleton were forced to begin making their acceptance speeches at around 2 am, local time.

After the convention ended, it was discovered that Eagleton had undergone psychiatric electroshock therapy for depression and had concealed this information from McGovern. A Time magazine poll taken at the time found that 77 percent of the respondents said, "Eagleton's medical record would not affect their vote." Nonetheless, the press made frequent references to his "shock therapy", and McGovern feared that this would detract from his campaign platform.[36] McGovern subsequently consulted confidentially with pre-eminent psychiatrists, including Eagleton's own doctors, who advised him that a recurrence of Eagleton's depression was possible and could endanger the country, should Eagleton become president.[37][38][39][40][41] McGovern had initially claimed that he would back Eagleton "1000 percent",[42] only to ask Eagleton to withdraw three days later. This perceived lack of conviction in sticking with his running mate was disastrous for the McGovern campaign.

McGovern later approached six prominent Democrats to run for vice president: Ted Kennedy, Edmund Muskie, Hubert Humphrey, Abraham Ribicoff, Larry O'Brien, and Reubin Askew. All six declined. Sargent Shriver, brother-in-law to John, Robert, and Ted Kennedy, former Ambassador to France, and former Director of the Peace Corps, later accepted.[43] He was officially nominated by a special session of the Democratic National Committee. By this time, McGovern's poll ratings had plunged from 41 to 24 percent.

Third parties[edit]

1972 American Independent Party ticket
John G. Schmitz Thomas J. Anderson
for President for Vice President
U.S. Representative from California's 35th district
Magazine publisher; conservative speaker
Other Candidates
Lester Maddox Thomas J. Anderson George Wallace
Lieutenant Governor of Georgia
Governor of Georgia
Magazine publisher; conservative speaker Governor of Alabama
(1963–1967, 1971–1979)
1968 AIP Presidential Nominee
Campaign Campaign Campaign
56 votes 24 votes 8 votes

The only major third party candidate in the 1972 election was conservative Republican Representative John G. Schmitz, who ran on the American Independent Party ticket (the party on whose ballot George Wallace ran in 1968). He was on the ballot in 32 states and received 1,099,482 votes. Unlike Wallace, however, he did not win a majority of votes cast in any state, and received no electoral votes, although he did finish ahead of McGovern in four of the most conservative Idaho counties.[44] Schmitz's performance in archconservative Jefferson County was the best by a third-party Presidential candidate in any free or postbellum state county since 1936 when William Lemke reached over twenty-eight percent of the vote in the North Dakota counties of Burke, Sheridan and Hettinger.[45] Schmitz was endorsed by fellow John Birch Society member Walter Brennan, who also served as finance chairman for his campaign.[46]

John Hospers and Theodora "Tonie" Nathan of the newly formed Libertarian Party were on the ballot only in Colorado and Washington, but were official write-in candidates in four others, and received 3,674 votes, winning no states. However, they did receive one Electoral College vote from Virginia from a Republican faithless elector (see below). The Libertarian vice-presidential nominee Tonie Nathan became the first Jew and the first woman in U.S. history to receive an Electoral College vote.[47]

Linda Jenness was nominated by the Socialist Workers Party, with Andrew Pulley as her running-mate. Benjamin Spock and Julius Hobson were nominated for president and vice-president, respectively, by the People's Party.

General election[edit]


Richard Nixon during an August 1972 campaign stop
George McGovern speaking at an October 1972 campaign rally

McGovern ran on a platform of immediately ending the Vietnam War and instituting a radical guaranteed minimum incomes for the nation's poor. His campaign was harmed by his views during the primaries (which alienated many powerful Democrats), the perception that his foreign policy was too extreme, and the Eagleton debacle. With McGovern's campaign weakened by these factors, with the Republicans portraying McGovern as a radical left-wing extremist, Nixon led in the polls by large margins throughout the entire campaign. With an enormous fundraising advantage and a comfortable lead in the polls, Nixon concentrated on large rallies and focused speeches to closed, select audiences, leaving much of the retail campaigning to surrogates like Vice President Agnew. Nixon did not, by design, try to extend his coattails to Republican congressional or gubernatorial candidates, preferring to pad his own margin of victory.


Election results by county.
Results by congressional district.

Nixon's percentage of the popular vote was only marginally less than Lyndon Johnson's record in the 1964 election, and his margin of victory was slightly larger. Nixon won a majority vote in 49 states, including McGovern's home state of South Dakota. Only Massachusetts and the District of Columbia voted for the challenger, resulting in an even more lopsided Electoral College tally. McGovern garnered only 37.5 percent of the national popular vote, the lowest share received by a Democratic Party nominee since John W. Davis won only 28.8 percent of the vote in the 1924 election. The only major party candidate since 1972 to receive less than 40 percent of the vote was Republican incumbent President George H. W. Bush who won 37.4 percent of the vote in the 1992 election, a race that (as in 1924) was complicated by a strong non-major-party vote.[48] Nixon received the highest share of the popular vote for a Republican in history.

Although the McGovern campaign believed that its candidate had a better chance of defeating Nixon because of the new Twenty-sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution that lowered the national voting age to 18 from 21, most of the youth vote went to Nixon.[49] This was the first election in American history in which a Republican candidate carried every single Southern state, continuing the region's transformation from a Democratic bastion into a Republican stronghold as Arkansas was carried by a Republican presidential candidate for the first time in a century. By this time, all the Southern states, except Arkansas and Texas, had been carried by a Republican in either the previous election or the one in 1964 (although Republican candidates carried Texas in 1928, 1952 and 1956). As a result of this election, Massachusetts became the only state that Nixon did not carry in any of the three presidential elections in which he was a candidate. Notably, Nixon became the first Republican to ever win two terms in the White House without carrying Massachusetts at least once, and the same feat would later be duplicated by George W. Bush who won both the 2000 and 2004 elections without winning Massachusetts either time. This presidential election was the first since 1808 in which New York did not have the largest number of electors in the Electoral College, having fallen to 41 electors vs. California's 45. Additionally, through 2020 it remains the last one in which Minnesota was carried by the Republican candidate.[50]

McGovern won a mere 130 counties, plus the District of Columbia and four county-equivalents in Alaska,[b] easily the fewest counties won by any major-party presidential nominee since the advent of popular presidential elections.[51] In nineteen states, McGovern failed to carry a single county;[c] he carried a mere one county-equivalent in a further nine states,[d] and just two counties in a further seven.[e] In contrast to Walter Mondale's narrow 1984 win in Minnesota, McGovern comfortably did win Massachusetts, but lost every other state by no less than five percentage points, as well as 45 states by more than ten percentage points – the exceptions being Massachusetts, Minnesota, Rhode Island, Wisconsin, and his home state of South Dakota. This election also made Nixon the second former vice president in American history to serve two terms back-to-back, after Thomas Jefferson in 1800 and 1804. As well as the only two-term Vice President to be elected President twice.

Since McGovern carried only one state, bumper stickers reading "Nixon 49 America 1",[52] "Don't Blame Me, I'm From Massachusetts", and "Massachusetts: The One And Only" were popular for a short time in Massachusetts.[53]

Nixon managed to win 18% of the African American vote (Gerald Ford would get 16% in 1976).[54] He also remains the only Republican in modern times to threaten the oldest extant Democratic stronghold of South Texas: this is the last election when the Republicans have won Hidalgo or Dimmit counties, the only time Republicans have won La Salle County between William McKinley in 1900 and Donald Trump in 2020, and one of only two occasions since Theodore Roosevelt in 1904[f] that Republicans have gained a majority in Presidio County.[50] More significantly, the 1972 election was the most recent time several highly populous urban counties – including Cook in Illinois, Orleans in Louisiana, Hennepin in Minnesota, Cuyahoga in Ohio, Durham in North Carolina, Queens in New York, and Prince George's in Maryland – have voted Republican.[50]

The Wallace vote had also been crucial to Nixon being able to sweep the states that had narrowly held out against him in 1968 (Texas, Maryland, and West Virginia), as well as the states Wallace won himself (Arkansas, Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, and Georgia). The pro-Wallace group of voters had only given AIP nominee John Schmitz a depressing 2.4% of its support, while 19.1% backed McGovern, and the majority 78.5% broke for Nixon.

Nixon, who became term-limited under the provisions of the Twenty-second Amendment as a result of his victory, became the first (and, as of 2023, only) presidential candidate to win a significant number of electoral votes in three presidential elections since the ratification of that Amendment. As of 2023, Nixon was the seventh of seven presidential nominees to win a significant number of electoral votes in at least three elections, the others being Thomas Jefferson, Henry Clay, Andrew Jackson, Grover Cleveland, William Jennings Bryan, and Franklin D. Roosevelt. He is the only Republican ever to do so.

The 520 electoral votes received by Nixon, added to the 301 electoral votes he received in 1968, and the 219 electoral votes he received in 1960, gave him the most total electoral votes received by any candidate who had been previously Vice President to become president (1,040) and the second largest number of electoral votes received by any candidate who was elected to the office of president behind Franklin D. Roosevelt's 1,876 total electoral votes.

Electoral results
Presidential candidate Party Home state Popular vote[55] Electoral
Running mate
Count Percentage Vice-presidential candidate Home state Electoral vote[56]
Richard Nixon (incumbent) Republican California 47,168,710 60.67% 520 Spiro T. Agnew (incumbent) Maryland 520
George McGovern Democratic South Dakota 29,173,222 37.52% 17 Sargent Shriver Maryland 17
John G. Schmitz American Independent California 1,100,896 1.42% 0 Thomas J. Anderson Tennessee 0
Linda Jenness Socialist Workers Georgia 83,380[g] 0.11% 0 Andrew Pulley Illinois 0
Benjamin Spock People's California 78,759 0.10% 0 Julius Hobson District of Columbia 0
Louis Fisher Socialist Labor Illinois 53,814 0.07% 0 Genevieve Gunderson Minnesota 0
John G. Hospers Libertarian California 3,674 0.00% 1[h][47] Theodora Nathan Oregon 1[h][47]
Other 81,575 0.10% Other
Total 77,744,030 100% 538 538
Needed to win 270 270
John Hospers received one faithless electoral vote from Virginia.
Popular vote
Electoral vote

Results by state[edit]

States/districts won by Nixon/Agnew
States/districts won by McGovern/Shriver
At-large results (Maine used the Congressional District Method)
Outcomes of the 1972 United States presidential election by state[58]
Richard Nixon
George McGovern
John Schmitz
American Independent
John Hospers
Margin State Total
State electoral
# % electoral
# % electoral
# % electoral
# % electoral
# % #
Alabama 9 728,701 72.43 9 256,923 25.54   11,918 1.18         471,778 46.89 1,006,093 AL
Alaska 3 55,349 58.13 3 32,967 34.62   6,903 7.25         22,382 23.51 95,219 AK
Arizona 6 402,812 61.64 6 198,540 30.38   21,208 3.25         204,272 31.26 653,505 AZ
Arkansas 6 445,751 68.82 6 198,899 30.71   3,016 0.47         246,852 38.11 647,666 AR
California 45 4,602,096 55.00 45 3,475,847 41.54   232,554 2.78   980 0.01   1,126,249 13.46 8,367,862 CA
Colorado 7 597,189 62.61 7 329,980 34.59   17,269 1.81   1,111 0.12   267,209 28.01 953,884 CO
Connecticut 8 810,763 58.57 8 555,498 40.13   17,239 1.25         255,265 18.44 1,384,277 CT
Delaware 3 140,357 59.60 3 92,283 39.18   2,638 1.12         48,074 20.41 235,516 DE
D.C. 3 35,226 21.56   127,627 78.10 3             −92,401 −56.54 163,421 DC
Florida 17 1,857,759 71.91 17 718,117 27.80               1,139,642 44.12 2,583,283 FL
Georgia 12 881,496 75.04 12 289,529 24.65   812 0.07         591,967 50.39 1,174,772 GA
Hawaii 4 168,865 62.48 4 101,409 37.52               67,456 24.96 270,274 HI
Idaho 4 199,384 64.24 4 80,826 26.04   28,869 9.30         118,558 38.20 310,379 ID
Illinois 26 2,788,179 59.03 26 1,913,472 40.51   2,471 0.05         874,707 18.52 4,723,236 IL
Indiana 13 1,405,154 66.11 13 708,568 33.34               696,586 32.77 2,125,529 IN
Iowa 8 706,207 57.61 8 496,206 40.48   22,056 1.80         210,001 17.13 1,225,944 IA
Kansas 7 619,812 67.66 7 270,287 29.50   21,808 2.38         349,525 38.15 916,095 KS
Kentucky 9 676,446 63.37 9 371,159 34.77   17,627 1.65         305,287 28.60 1,067,499 KY
Louisiana 10 686,852 65.32 10 298,142 28.35   52,099 4.95         388,710 36.97 1,051,491 LA
Maine † 2 256,458 61.46 2 160,584 38.48   117 0.03   1 0.00   95,874 22.98 417,271 ME
Maine-1 1 135,388 61.42 1 85,028 38.58   Unknown Unknown   Unknown Unknown   50,360 22.85 220,416 ME1
Maine-2 1 121,120 61.58 1 75,556 38.42   Unknown Unknown   Unknown Unknown   45,564 23.17 196,676 ME2
Maryland 10 829,305 61.26 10 505,781 37.36   18,726 1.38         323,524 23.90 1,353,812 MD
Massachusetts 14 1,112,078 45.23   1,332,540 54.20 14 2,877 0.12   43 0.00   −220,462 −8.97 2,458,756 MA
Michigan 21 1,961,721 56.20 21 1,459,435 41.81   63,321 1.81         502,286 14.39 3,490,325 MI
Minnesota 10 898,269 51.58 10 802,346 46.07   31,407 1.80         95,923 5.51 1,741,652 MN
Mississippi 7 505,125 78.20 7 126,782 19.63   11,598 1.80         378,343 58.57 645,963 MS
Missouri 12 1,154,058 62.29 12 698,531 37.71               455,527 24.59 1,852,589 MO
Montana 4 183,976 57.93 4 120,197 37.85   13,430 4.23         63,779 20.08 317,603 MT
Nebraska 5 406,298 70.50 5 169,991 29.50               236,307 41.00 576,289 NE
Nevada 3 115,750 63.68 3 66,016 36.32               49,734 27.36 181,766 NV
New Hampshire 4 213,724 63.98 4 116,435 34.86   3,386 1.01         97,289 29.12 334,055 NH
New Jersey 17 1,845,502 61.57 17 1,102,211 36.77   34,378 1.15         743,291 24.80 2,997,229 NJ
New Mexico 4 235,606 61.05 4 141,084 36.56   8,767 2.27         94,522 24.49 385,931 NM
New York 41 4,192,778 58.54 41 2,951,084 41.21               1,241,694 17.34 7,161,830 NY
North Carolina 13 1,054,889 69.46 13 438,705 28.89   25,018 1.65         616,184 40.58 1,518,612 NC
North Dakota 3 174,109 62.07 3 100,384 35.79   5,646 2.01         73,725 26.28 280,514 ND
Ohio 25 2,441,827 59.63 25 1,558,889 38.07   80,067 1.96         882,938 21.56 4,094,787 OH
Oklahoma 8 759,025 73.70 8 247,147 24.00   23,728 2.30         511,878 49.70 1,029,900 OK
Oregon 6 486,686 52.45 6 392,760 42.33   46,211 4.98         93,926 10.12 927,946 OR
Pennsylvania 27 2,714,521 59.11 27 1,796,951 39.13   70,593 1.54         917,570 19.98 4,592,105 PA
Rhode Island 4 220,383 53.00 4 194,645 46.81   25 0.01   2 0.00   25,738 6.19 415,808 RI
South Carolina 8 478,427 70.58 8 189,270 27.92   10,166 1.50         289,157 42.66 677,880 SC
South Dakota 4 166,476 54.15 4 139,945 45.52               26,531 8.63 307,415 SD
Tennessee 10 813,147 67.70 10 357,293 29.75   30,373 2.53         455,854 37.95 1,201,182 TN
Texas 26 2,298,896 66.20 26 1,154,291 33.24   7,098 0.20         1,144,605 32.96 3,472,714 TX
Utah 4 323,643 67.64 4 126,284 26.39   28,549 5.97         197,359 41.25 478,476 UT
Vermont 3 117,149 62.66 3 68,174 36.47               48,975 26.20 186,947 VT
Virginia 12 988,493 67.84 11 438,887 30.12   19,721 1.35       1 549,606 37.72 1,457,019 VA
Washington 9 837,135 56.92 9 568,334 38.64   58,906 4.00   1,537 0.10   268,801 18.28 1,470,847 WA
West Virginia 6 484,964 63.61 6 277,435 36.39               207,529 27.22 762,399 WV
Wisconsin 11 989,430 53.40 11 810,174 43.72   47,525 2.56         179,256 9.67 1,852,890 WI
Wyoming 3 100,464 69.01 3 44,358 30.47   748 0.51         56,106 38.54 145,570 WY
TOTALS: 538 47,168,710 60.67 520 29,173,222 37.52 17 1,100,868 1.42 0 3,674 0.00 1 17,995,488 23.15 77,744,027 US

For the first time since 1828, Maine allowed its electoral votes to be split between candidates. Two electoral votes were awarded to the winner of the statewide race and one electoral vote to the winner of each congressional district. This was the first time the Congressional District Method had been used since Michigan used it in 1892. Nixon won all four votes.[59]

States that flipped from Democratic to Republican[edit]

States that flipped from American Independent to Republican[edit]

Close states[edit]

States where margin of victory was more than 5 percentage points, but less than 10 percentage points (43 electoral votes):

Tipping point states:

  1. Ohio, 21.56% (882,938 votes) (tipping point for a Nixon victory)
  2. Maine-1, 22.85% (50,360 votes) (tipping point for a McGovern victory)[60]



Counties with highest percentage of the vote (Republican)

  1. Dade County, Georgia 93.45%
  2. Glascock County, Georgia 93.38%
  3. George County, Mississippi 92.90%
  4. Holmes County, Florida 92.51%
  5. Smith County, Mississippi 92.35%

Counties with highest percentage of the vote (Democratic)

  1. Duval County, Texas 85.68%
  2. Washington, D. C. 78.10%
  3. Shannon County, South Dakota 77.34%
  4. Greene County, Alabama 68.32%
  5. Charles City County, Virginia 67.84%

Counties with highest percentage of the vote (Other)

  1. Jefferson County, Idaho 27.51%
  2. Lemhi County, Idaho 19.77%
  3. Fremont County, Idaho 19.32%
  4. Bonneville County, Idaho 18.97%
  5. Madison County, Idaho 17.04%

Voter demographics[edit]

Nixon won 36 percent of the Democratic vote, according to an exit poll conducted for CBS News by George Fine Research, Inc.[61] This represents more than twice the percentage of voters who typically defect from their party in presidential elections. Nixon also became the first Republican presidential candidate in American history to win the Roman Catholic vote (53–46), and the first in recent history to win the blue-collar vote, which he won by a 5-to-4 margin. McGovern narrowly won the union vote (50–48), though this difference was within the survey's margin of error of 2 percentage points. McGovern also narrowly won the youth vote (i. e., those aged 18 to 24) 52–46, a narrower margin than many of his strategists had predicted. Early on, the McGovern campaign also significantly over-estimated the number of young people who would vote in the election: They predicted that 18 million would have voted in total, but exit polls indicate that the actual number was about 12 million. McGovern did win comfortably among both African-American and Jewish voters, but by somewhat smaller margins than usual for a Democratic candidate.[61] McGovern won the African American vote by 87% to Nixon's 13%.[62]


On June 17, 1972, five months before election day, five men broke into the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate hotel in Washington, D. C.; the resulting investigation led to the revelation of attempted cover-ups of the break-in within the Nixon administration. What became known as the Watergate scandal eroded President Nixon's public and political support in his second term, and he resigned on August 9, 1974, in the face of probable impeachment by the House of Representatives and removal from office by the Senate.

As part of the continuing Watergate investigation in 1974–1975, federal prosecutors offered companies that had given illegal campaign contributions to President Nixon's re-election campaign lenient sentences if they came forward.[63] Many companies complied, including Northrop Grumman, 3M, American Airlines, and Braniff Airlines.[63] By 1976, prosecutors had convicted 18 American corporations of contributing illegally to Nixon's campaign.[63]

Despite this election delivering Nixon's greatest electoral triumph, Nixon later wrote in his memoirs that "it was one of the most frustrating and in many ways the least satisfying of all".[64]

See also[edit]

Explanatory notes[edit]

  1. ^ A faithless Republican elector voted for the Libertarian ticket: Hospers–Nathan
  2. ^ These were North Slope Borough, plus Bethel, Kusilvak and Hoonah-Angoon Census Areas
  3. ^ McGovern failed to carry a single county in Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Utah, Vermont or Wyoming
  4. ^ McGovern carried only one county-equivalent in Arizona (Greenlee), Illinois (Jackson), Louisiana (West Feliciana Parish), Maine (Androscoggin), Maryland (Baltimore), North Dakota (Rolette), Pennsylvania (Philadelphia), Virginia (Charles City), and West Virginia (Logan)
  5. ^ McGovern carried just two counties in Colorado, Missouri, Montana, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio and Washington State
  6. ^ Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1952 also obtained a plurality in Presidio County
  7. ^ In Arizona, Pima and Yavapai counties had an unusually formatted ballot that led voters to believe they could vote for a major party presidential candidate and simultaneously vote the six individual Socialist Workers Party presidential electors. Technically, these were overvotes, and should not have counted for either the major party candidates or the Socialist Workers Party electors. Within two days of the election, the Attorney General and Pima County Attorney had agreed that all votes should count. The Socialist Workers Party had not qualified as a party, and thus did not have a presidential candidate. In the official state canvass, votes for Nixon, McGovern, or Schmitz, are shown as being for the presidential candidate, the party, and the elector slate of the party; while those for the Socialist Worker Party elector candidates were for those candidates only. In the view of the Secretary of State, the votes were not for Linda Jenness. Some tabulations count the votes for Jenness. Historically, presidential candidate names did not appear on ballots, and voters voted directly for the electors. Nonetheless, votes for the electors are attributed to the presidential candidate. Counting the votes in Arizona for Jenness is consistent with this practice. Because of the confusing ballots, Socialist Workers Party electors received votes on about 21 percent and 8 percent of ballots in Pima and Yavapai, respectively. 30,579 of the party's 30,945 Arizona votes are from those two counties.[57]
  8. ^ A Virginia faithless elector, Roger MacBride, though pledged to vote for Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew, instead voted for Libertarian candidates John Hospers and Theodora "Tonie" Nathan.


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Bibliography and further reading[edit]

  • Alexander, Herbert E. Financing the 1972 Election (1976) online
  • Simons, Herbert W., James W. Chesebro, and C. Jack Orr. "A movement perspective on the 1972 presidential election." Quarterly Journal of Speech 59.2 (1973): 168-179. online Archived September 23, 2022, at the Wayback Machine
  • Trent, Judith S., and Jimmie D. Trent. "The rhetoric of the challenger: George Stanley McGovern." Communication Studies 25.1 (1974): 11-18.

Primary sources[edit]

  • Chester, Edward W. (1977). A guide to political platforms.
  • Porter, Kirk H. and Donald Bruce Johnson, eds. National party platforms, 1840–1972 (1973)

External links[edit]