- Oops!Something went wrong.Please try again later.
- Oops!Something went wrong.Please try again later.
The claim: Joe Biden won the most votes in history, though he won a record low number of counties
More than a month after Election Day, the votes have been counted and the results of the presidential contest are complete. Analysis of those results, though, has only just begun.
A number of conservatives, for example, have started to break down vote totals by county.
Students for Trump took to Instagram on Dec. 6 to post a comparison of county-level wins by President-elect Joe Biden in 2020 and former President Barack Obama in 2008.
"Did Biden win more votes than any president in history? He won a record low of 17% of counties," the meme reads. "Biden won 477 counties while Obama in 2008 won 873..."
"Something doesn't seem to add up," the organization added in the caption
Jan Morgan, a conservative activist, posted a similar meme on Facebook on Dec. 6.
"Trying to figure out how Biden won a record low of only 16.7% of all U.S. counties yet supposedly won the election with the most votes in history," the post read.
"Must be new math," she added in the caption.
Students for Trump and Morgan have not responded to requests from USA TODAY for comment.
Fact check: Trump lost the 2020 presidential election
Joe Biden received over 81 million votes, the most in history
In the presidential election, there were 81,282,903 votes cast for Biden and 74,223,030 votes cast for President Donald Trump, according to a current tally from USA TODAY.
Both Biden and Trump racked up higher vote totals than Obama, who previously held the record – 69,498,516 votes in 2008, per USA TODAY.
What about county-level results?
On Nov. 10, the Brookings Institution published a report on county-level results. The report showed that Biden won 477 counties, while Trump won 2,497 counties. Results from dozens of counties were not finalized at the time, per Time magazine.
According to that data, Biden won just 16% of counties with finalized results.
On Dec. 8, the think tank updated its report with new data. The updated report showed that Biden won 509 counties, while Trump won 2,547 counties. Results from 28 counties have still not been finalized, per Brookings Institution.
But according to the updated data, Biden won 16.7% of counties with finalized results. That represents a record-low proportion for a winning presidential candidate.
Obama set the previous record in 2012 – with 689 counties, equal to 22%. Before that, he also set a record in 2008 with just 28% of counties, per NBC News.
Counties vary by population, so county wins don't correlate with the popular vote
Ultimately, the fact that Biden and Obama were victorious in a relatively small number of counties is not relevant to their popular vote numbers.
That's because there is an incredible amount of variance in county population size, per a report by the U.S. Census Bureau.
Some counties have minuscule populations – for example, Hawaii's Kalawao County has just 88 residents, and Texas' Loving County has 169 residents.
Other counties have enormous populations – for example, California's Los Angeles County has 10.1 million residents, and Illinois' Cook County has 5.2 million residents.
The same 2017 report by the U.S. Census Bureau found that more than half of the U.S. population lives in just 143 counties, or 4.3% of all counties.
Therefore, it's plausible that Joe Biden set a popular vote record by carrying only 509 counties, or 17% of all counties.
Our rating: Missing context
We rate memes that call into question whether Joe Biden won the most ever votes based on the fact that he won a record-low number of counties as MISSING CONTEXT, because without additional context they could be misleading. With over 81 million votes, Biden received the most votes of any presidential candidate in history. It is also true that he won a record-low number of counties – but counties vary by population size, from those with a few hundred people to others with millions of residents, so county wins don't correlate with the popular vote.
Our fact-check sources:
USA TODAY, accessed Dec. 9, 2020 Presidential Election Results & Electoral Map
Time Magazine, Nov. 13, Trump Made the Economy His Message. Biden Won It
Brookings Institution, Nov. 10, Biden-voting counties equal 70% of America's economy. What does this mean for the nation's political-economic divide?
NBC News, Dec. 4, 2012, Obama won a record-low share of U.S. counties — but he won them big
Business Insider, May 24, 27 US counties with wide open spaces if you want to escape crowded cities
U.S. Census Bureau, April 18, 2019, New Census Bureau Estimates Show Counties in South and West Lead Nation in Population Growth
U.S. Census Bureau, Oct. 24, 2017, More Than Half of U.S. Population in 4.6 Percent of Counties
Thank you for supporting our journalism. You can subscribe to our print edition, ad-free app or electronic newspaper replica here.
Our fact check work is supported in part by a grant from Facebook.
This fact check is available at IFCN’s 2020 US Elections FactChat #Chatbot on WhatsApp. Click here, for more.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: Joe Biden won most votes ever and fewest counties