Popular Vote 2016: How California Drove Hillary Clinton’s Lead

Singer Andra Day (R) reaches to hug Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton during a fundraiser at the Civic Center Auditorium October 13, 2016 in San Francisco, California. / AFP / Brendan Smialowski (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

Singer Andra Day (R) reaches to hug Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton during a fundraiser at the Civic Center Auditorium October 13, 2016 in San Francisco, California. (Getty)

How dominant is California when it comes to driving Hillary Clinton’s more than 1.2 million popular vote lead over President-Elect Donald Trump?

The overall numbers obscure the fact that one state gave Clinton her edge: Populous California.

Clinton popular vote lead overall: At least 1.23 million.
Clinton popular vote lead in California alone: At least 3.1 million.

(The “at least” comes into play because California was still counting unprocessed ballots as of November 16 – more than 3.4 million of them – but since the state went so large for Clinton, it’s expected that California will just add to her margin even more.)

California contributed more than 10% of Clinton’s overall popular vote tally. Without California in the popular vote totals, Trump leads the rest of the states combined by more than 1.87 million popular votes.

Five states contributed to more than 35% of Clinton’s popular vote totals.

Here are the latest popular vote totals for the 2016 presidential election according to a spreadsheet compiled by Dave Wasserman and Cook Political Report:

Clinton: 62,568,373
Trump: 61,336,159

If you removed only California’s popular votes from the total, this is the result you would get, as of November 16:

Clinton: 55,889,446
Trump: 57,760,819

Trump also leads in the swing states as a whole:

Trump: 22,056,165
Clinton: 21,182,086
Trump swing state popular vote lead: 874,079

More than 10.8 million ballots have been counted in California so far (and, as noted, there were still more than 3.4 million California ballots still not yet processed as of November 16). In 2012, 13,038,547 people voted in California. The state with the smallest vote total in 2016 as a point of comparison: Wyoming, where just 248,892 people voted.

The Electoral College does factor the population differences into the equation; California awards 55 electoral votes. Wyoming awards 3. Wyoming is not a swing state. However, states with low vote totals are, and thus get some attention from candidates who would otherwise be parked in California for much of the election, ignoring the rest of the country (if elections were determined by popular vote).

New Hampshire had 731,931 votes cast in 2016; because it’s a swing state, it saw repeated candidate visits from candidates seeking its 4 electoral votes (Clinton won an exceptionally close contest there.)

votes counted

When will the votes all be counted? (Getty)

Clinton’s large popular vote totals – third in history after Barack Obama’s two elections – have sparked increased criticism about the Electoral College, which is how Trump won the presidency.

Those who support the Electoral College argue that, without it, candidates would engage in a very different campaign. Instead of barnstorming throughout all corners of the country, rural and urban alike, they would focus their time and resources on a couple states (California and New York mostly), ignoring the rest of the country and its issues. Trump and Electoral College supporters argue that if popular vote won the presidency, the candidates would have campaigned differently, and it’s impossible to predict how that would have changed the popular vote calculus.

For comparison purposes, here are the 2012 and 2008 popular vote totals:

2012, according to 270toWin
Barack Obama 65,446,032
Mitt Romney 60,589,084

2008, per 270toWin
Barack Obama 69,456,897
John McCain 59,934,814

According to the National Archives and Records Administration, “The founding fathers established it (the Electoral College) in the Constitution as a compromise between election of the President by a vote in Congress and election of the President by a popular vote of qualified citizens.”

Trump’s popular vote totals are also impressive; they are the fifth highest in history behind Obama’s two elections, Clinton, and George W. Bush.

Here’s a breakdown of how Clinton built her popular vote lead. More than 35% of Clinton’s popular vote totals came from these five states:

1. California: 10.67% of Clinton’s popular vote totals came from California. (6,678,927 votes)
2. Florida: 7.2% of Clinton’s popular vote totals came from Florida. (4,501,455 votes)
3. New York: 6.6% of Clinton’s popular vote totals came from New York. (4,149,500 votes)
4. Texas: 6.2% of Clinton’s popular vote totals came from Texas. (3,868,291 votes)
5. Illinois: 4.85% of Clinton’s popular vote totals came from Illinois. (3,034,833 votes)

Trump’s top popular vote tally came in Florida, where he earned 4,615,910 votes (7.5% of his total).

In those states, Clinton leads Trump by this many votes:
1. California: Clinton has a 3.1 million vote margin- three times her popular vote edge.
2. Florida: Clinton is behind 114,455 votes in Florida, so that state did not contribute to her popular vote edge.
3. New York: Clinton has a 1.5 million vote margin in New York.
4. Texas: Clinton is behind by 815,061 votes in Texas, so that state did not contribute to her popular vote lead.
5. Illinois: Clinton leads by 909,412 votes.