In a review of the year article in the UK newspaper the Independent, Rupert Cornwell argues that the Republican party is in some trouble because of the drift to the right and the resulting inflexible promises they have made about tax. It isn't the point of this question to incite arguments about whether that part of the analysis is sound. But the author also claims the following:

Worst of all, the mess is of the Republicans' own making. They hold a 233-200 majority in the House, even though they lost the popular vote in congressional elections by over half a million. Americans, in other words, didn't vote for a Republican House in 2012. They got one however, thanks to the gerrymandering of Republican-controlled state legislatures.

There are two claims here, one of which surprised me as that isn't the impression generally transmitted: the republicans didn't win the popular vote. The republicans in the House are certainly acting as though they have a mandate to oppose any tax rises.

So is Cornwell's claim correct?

NB The other claim is that the republican majority resulted from gerrymandering of congressional boundaries. This is not the question here, but should be addressed in answers to this previous question: Does politically controlled redistricting in US elections make incumbents more secure?

  • 1
    In a sense it doesn't matter what the popular vote was, as each representative should answer to his own district. Now there is a interesting claim to be made that the district lines have been unfairly managed to encourage this kind of outcome (which could in principle happen even with fairly drawn lines but I would expect to be rare in that case). Commented Dec 30, 2012 at 19:38
  • @dmckee I think the gerrymandering question is worthy of attention. It is linked in the question.
    – matt_black
    Commented Dec 30, 2012 at 20:09
  • Not all House seats were contested by 1 candidate from each of the two major parties; those seats combined saw many more votes than the difference between the party totals (though my guess is that the difference might widen if an adjustment was made for this).
    – Henry
    Commented Dec 30, 2012 at 21:30
  • @henry I think i'd settle for an answer based on the total republican vote versus the total democrat vote ignoring 3rd parties.
    – matt_black
    Commented Dec 31, 2012 at 15:06
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    @matt_black: Not quite my point. The spreadsheet says that the GOP won 4.7 million votes in seats where the Dems won 0 (including the first on the list), while the Dems won 3.6 million in seats where the GOP won 0. These are big numbers compared to the 1.35 million difference between the overall totals.
    – Henry
    Commented Dec 31, 2012 at 17:47

1 Answer 1



According to a spreadsheet kept by the editor of "The Cook Political Report", Democrats nationally accrued ~1.35M more votes than Republican House candidates in 2012 (out of ~118M total votes cast). The official tally will be issued by the Office of the Clerk sometime in 2013.

  • Does this imply there is no official government tally of the national congressional vote done quickly? I'm used to the national tally being announced at most a day or two after the actual vote. What gives in the USA?
    – matt_black
    Commented Jan 3, 2013 at 18:17
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    As an update, the official numbers (since released) show Democrats with ~1.59M more votes than Republicans in the House. It's on page 73 of the 2012 PDF.
    – Is Begot
    Commented Jul 28, 2015 at 22:08
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    @matt_black - since federal Congressional seats are done on a district by district basis, overall, total popular votes won by parties isn't tracked except by interested people, after the fact, because it doesn't have any direct impact on the outcome of elections. As an FYI regarding gerrymandering, the Wisconsin 2012 state assembly results show a huge disparity in votes vs seats (party with 49% of the popular vote won 61% of the seats... happened to be the party in power that drew the district lines in 2010). Commented Oct 20, 2016 at 20:23
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    @PoloHoleSet You're right about the "overall popular vote" not being a thing that matters or that anyone is generally concerned with in regards to U.S. Congressional elections, but your point about gerrymandering is ignoring a rather important detail: It's very common for U.S. House elections to either not be contested at all or only nominally contested. Elections that aren't seriously contested (as is often the case when the incumbent is running for re-election) will have much lower turnout. As such, seriously contested districts will be disproportionately represented in an overall vote total
    – reirab
    Commented Jan 3, 2017 at 22:43
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    @reirab - That's only true in "off year" federal elections, generally. 2012 was not an off-year contest. Gerrymandering also has a massive impact on whether seats are contested or not, so I'm not sure what it is you think I'm ignoring. Commented Jan 4, 2017 at 17:32

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