Fact check: Biden won record popular vote, but inauguration crowd had limits

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Madeleine Ngo, USA TODAY
·4 min read
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The claim: Joe Biden could not have been the most popular presidential candidate in U.S. history because of the size of the crowd at his inauguration

After President Joe Biden’s swearing-in on Jan. 20, social media users started to share photos of Biden’s small inauguration crowd to claim that Biden unfairly won the election, even though election officials have said the election was conducted fairly and there is no evidence of widespread fraud.

One such post claims that Biden could not have won the most votes cast for a U.S. presidential candidate because his crowd size was smaller than the audience at President Donald Trump’s inauguration in 2017.

“They still want us to believe that Joe Biden was the most popular presidential candidate in U.S. history?” a Facebook page captioned a viral post with a side-by-side photo comparison of both inauguration ceremonies.

Fact check:Meme with images of Biden, Trump inaugurations draws false comparison

The post was shared by a group called the Restoration PAC, a super PAC that has spent millions to bolster Republican candidates, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The post has garnered about 4,500 reactions and 1,900 shares. USA TODAY has reached out to Restoration PAC for comment.

Another user shared a similar viral post, claiming that Biden "couldn’t even get more than 12 people at his 'rallies.'" USA TODAY has reached out to the user for comment.

Attendance limits, security concerns at Biden's inaugruation

While the crowd size at Biden’s swearing-in ceremony was smaller than Trump’s, there were restrictions in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19, USA TODAY reported. Fewer tickets were distributed and subway stations across the district were closed.

District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser also urged people to celebrate the inauguration at home after a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, leaving five people dead.

"Our goals right now are to encourage Americans to participate virtually and to protect the District of Columbia from a repeat of the violent insurrection experienced at the Capitol and its grounds on January the 6th," Bowser said at a press conference.

After the Capitol siege, more than 25,000 National Guard members were deployed to D.C to help provide additional security at Biden’s inauguration, according to USA TODAY.

President Joe Biden waves to the crowd after being sworn in during the 2021 Presidential Inauguration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris at the U.S. Capitol.
President Joe Biden waves to the crowd after being sworn in during the 2021 Presidential Inauguration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris at the U.S. Capitol.

Biden received the most votes

It is true that Biden won the most votes cast for a U.S. presidential candidate, amassing about 81 million votes. Both 2020 candidates received a record-breaking number of votes, with Trump winning roughly 74 million votes, USA TODAY reported.

The previous record was held by Barack Obama, who received over 69 million votes in the 2008 election against John McCain, a Republican senator from Arizona.

Since 2008, the U.S. population has grown from 304 million people to more than 330 million people in 2020, according to the New York Times.

Fact check: Vice President Kamala Harris used 2 Bibles when she was sworn in

Although Trump and his supporters have asserted that Biden unfairly won the election, these claims are baseless and lawsuits seeking to challenge the election results have largely failed.

Our rating: False

The claim that President Joe Biden could not have won the most votes cast for a presidential candidate in U.S. history because of his small inauguration crowd is FALSE, based on our research. There were restrictions in place at Biden's inauguration because of COVID-19, as well as heightened security concerns after the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. Biden won more than 81 million votes, breaking former President Barack Obama's record in 2008.

Our fact-checking sources:

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: Inauguration limits meant crowd didn't mirror popular vote