How California has voted in every presidential election since 1976

Written by:
January 19, 2021
Everett Raymond Kinstler // White House Collection

How California has voted in every presidential election since 1976

It is often said that the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. When it comes to elections, that is true—but it’s not true often enough that we know what to expect at the ballot box.

Stacker takes a look at how California voted in each election since 1976, according to data from MIT Election Data and Science Lab.

States like Hawaii and Rhode Island have been Democratic strongholds for decades, Massachusetts has been voting steadily blue since 1960, and Washington D.C. has never backed a Republican candidate.

On the other side of the political aisle, Alaska has voted Republican in every election but one. Idaho, Kentucky, and Indiana have been Republican for generations, while Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Montana, and Wyoming have been voting red nearly every chance they can.

Southern states have been moving as a powerful block for ages, voting Democratic from the Reconstruction after the Civil War until the 1960s, when Southerners opposed civil rights legislation. The Republican Party stepped in with what’s known as its Southern strategy to woo those votes, adding an emphasis on the traditional nuclear family, traditional roles for women, and evangelical religion to simmering racial issues.

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Official White House photographer//Wikimedia

1976

California
- #1. Gerald Ford (Republican): 49.7% of votes (1.8% margin of victory)
- #2. Jimmy Carter (Democrat): 48.0%
- #3. Roger Macbride (Independent): 0.7%
- #4. Lester Maddox (American Independent Party): 0.7%

National
- #1. Jimmy Carter (Democrat): 50.1% of votes (297/538 electoral votes)
- #2. Gerald Ford (Republican): 48.0%
- States with smallest margin of victory: Oregon (+0.2% Gerald Ford), Ohio (+0.2% Jimmy Carter), Maine (+0.8% Gerald Ford)

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White House Photographic Office//Wikimedia

1980

California
- #1. Ronald Reagan (Republican): 52.7% of votes (16.8% margin of victory)
- #2. Jimmy Carter (Democrat): 35.9%
- #3. John B. Anderson (Independent): 8.6%
- #4. Edward ""Ed"" Clark (Libertarian): 1.7%

National
- #1. Ronald Reagan (Republican): 50.8% of votes (489/538 electoral votes)
- #2. Jimmy Carter (Democrat): 41.0%
- States with smallest margin of victory: Massachusetts (+0.2% Ronald Reagan), Tennessee (+0.3% Ronald Reagan), Arkansas (+0.6% Ronald Reagan)

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Everett Raymond Kinstler // White House Collection

1984

California
- #1. Ronald Reagan (Republican): 57.5% of votes (16.2% margin of victory)
- #2. Walter Mondale (Democrat): 41.3%
- #3. David Bergland (Libertarian): 0.5%
- #4. Bob Richards (Populist): 0.4%

National
- #1. Ronald Reagan (Republican): 58.8% of votes (525/538 electoral votes)
- #2. Walter Mondale (Democrat): 40.6%
- States with smallest margin of victory: Minnesota (+0.2% Walter Mondale), Massachusetts (+2.8% Ronald Reagan), Rhode Island (+3.6% Ronald Reagan)

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Library of Congress//Wikimedia

1988

California
- #1. George H.W. Bush (Republican): 51.1% of votes (3.6% margin of victory)
- #2. Michael Dukakis (Democrat): 47.6%
- #3. Ron Paul (Libertarian): 0.7%
- #4. Lenora Fulani (Independent): 0.6%

National
- #1. George H. W. Bush (Republican): 53.4% of votes (426/538 electoral votes)
- #2. Michael Dukakis (Democrat): 45.7%
- States with smallest margin of victory: Washington (+1.6% Michael Dukakis), Illinois (+2.1% George H.W. Bush), Pennsylvania (+2.3% George H.W. Bush)

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Bob McNeely, The White House//Wikimedia

1992

California
- #1. Bill Clinton (Democrat): 46.0% of votes (13.4% margin of victory)
- #2. George H.W. Bush (Republican): 32.6%
- #3. Ross Perot (Independent): 20.6%
- #4. Andre Marrou (Libertarian): 0.4%

National
- #1. Bill Clinton (Democrat): 43.0% of votes (370/538 electoral votes)
- #2. George H. W. Bush (Republican): 37.5%
- States with smallest margin of victory: Georgia (+0.6% Bill Clinton), North Carolina (+0.8% George H.W. Bush), New Hampshire (+1.2% Bill Clinton)

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Simmie Knox // White House Collection

1996

California
- #1. Bill Clinton (Democrat): 51.1% of votes (12.9% margin of victory)
- #2. Robert Dole (Republican): 38.2%
- #3. Ross Perot (Reform Party): 7.0%
- #4. Ralph Nader (Green): 2.4%

National
- #1. Bill Clinton (Democrat): 49.2% of votes (379/538 electoral votes)
- #2. Bob Dole (Republican): 40.7%
- States with smallest margin of victory: Kentucky (+1.0% Bill Clinton), Nevada (+1.0% Bill Clinton), Georgia (+1.2% Robert Dole)

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ENERGY.GOV//Wikimedia

2000

California
- #1. Al Gore (Democrat): 53.4% of votes (11.8% margin of victory)
- #2. George W. Bush (Republican): 41.7%
- #3. Ralph Nader (Green): 3.8%
- #4. Harry Browne (Libertarian): 0.4%

National
- #1. George W. Bush (Republican): 47.9% of votes (271/538 electoral votes)
- #2. Al Gore (Democrat): 48.4%
- States with smallest margin of victory: Florida (+0.0% George W. Bush), New Mexico (+0.1% Al Gore), Wisconsin (+0.2% Al Gore)

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John Howard Sanden // White House Collection

2004

California
- #1. John Kerry (Democrat): 54.3% of votes (9.9% margin of victory)
- #2. George W. Bush (Republican): 44.4%
- #3. Michael Badnarik (Libertarian): 0.4%
- #4. David Cobb (Green): 0.3%

National
- #1. George W. Bush (Republican): 50.7% of votes (286/538 electoral votes)
- #2. John Kerry (Democrat): 48.3%
- States with smallest margin of victory: Wisconsin (+0.4% John Kerry), Iowa (+0.7% George W. Bush), New Mexico (+0.8% George W. Bush)

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Pete Souza, The Obama-Biden Transition Project//Wikimedia

2008

California
- #1. Barack Obama (Democrat): 61.0% of votes (24.1% margin of victory)
- #2. John Mccain (Republican): 37.0%
- #3. Ralph Nader (Peace & Freedom): 0.8%
- #4. Bob Barr (Libertarian): 0.5%

National
- #1. Barack Obama (Democrat): 52.9% of votes (365/538 electoral votes)
- #2. John McCain (Republican): 45.7%
- States with smallest margin of victory: Missouri (+0.1% John Mccain), North Carolina (+0.3% Barack Obama), Indiana (+1.0% Barack Obama)

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Kehinde Wiley // Smithsonian Institution

2012

California
- #1. Barack Obama (Democrat): 60.2% of votes (23.1% margin of victory)
- #2. Mitt Romney (Republican): 37.1%
- #3. Gary Johnson (Libertarian): 1.1%
- #4. Jill Stein (Green): 0.7%

National
- #1. Barack Obama (Democrat): 51.1% of votes (332/538 electoral votes)
- #2. Mitt Romney (Republican): 47.2%
- States with smallest margin of victory: Florida (+0.9% Barack Obama), North Carolina (+2.0% Mitt Romney), Ohio (+3.0% Barack Obama)

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Gage Skidmore // flickr

2016

California
- #1. Hillary Clinton (Democrat): 61.7% of votes (30.1% margin of victory)
- #2. Donald Trump (Republican): 31.6%
- #3. Gary Johnson (Libertarian): 3.4%
- #4. Jill Stein (Green): 2.0%

National
- #1. Donald Trump (Republican): 46.1% of votes (304/538 electoral votes)
- #2. Hillary Clinton (Democrat): 48.2%
- States with smallest margin of victory: Michigan (+0.2% Donald Trump), New Hampshire (+0.4% Hillary Clinton), Pennsylvania (+0.7% Donald Trump)

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Marc Nozell // Flickr

2020

California
- #1. Joe Biden (Democrat): 63.5% of votes (29.2% margin of victory)
- #2. Donald Trump (Republican): 34.3%
- #3. Jo Jorgensen (Libertarian): 1.1%
- #4. Howie Hawkins (Green): 0.5%

National
- #1. Joe Biden (Democrat): 51.3% of votes (306/538 electoral votes)
- #2. Donald Trump (Republican): 46.9%
- States with smallest margin of victory: Georgia (+0.2% Joe Biden), Arizona (+0.3% Joe Biden), Wisconsin (+0.6% Joe Biden)

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