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1992 Presidential Election

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1992 Presidential Election

In the aftermath of the Cold War and the international success of the U.S., an outside reformer had a significant impact on the modern presidential election. The 1992 Presidential Election featured an experienced Washington leader, a young Southern Governor, and a Texas billionaire unconnected to the political party machine.

The candidates focused on the economy, corruption, and political influence and ran a heated three-way race that would end in a landslide win. The candidates, campaign issues, and election statistics all demonstrate the significance of the 1992 election.

1992 Presidential Election Candidates

Who were the candidates?

Republican Candidate

The Republican candidate in 1992 was the sitting president George H. W. Bush. During his term, the Berlin Wall fell, Germany was reunited, the Soviet Union fell and America was the only remaining world superpower. In pursuit of these accomplishments, U.S. military and space spending skyrocketed. Meanwhile, taxes had been lowered until Congress pushed for tax increases to fix a growing federal budget deficit. George Bush's 1988 vow against "no new taxes" was broken in 1990 as the President reversed course. The primary issue of 1990-1991 was the Persian Gulf War as Bush earned high praise and public support for his role as America's Commander in Chief. Bush's high approval ratings soon plummeted as economic factors opened the door to a Democrat alternative.

1992 Presidential Election Candidates StudySmarter

President George H.W. Bush. Source: Wikimedia Commons

The Persian Gulf War was the result of the 1990 invasion of oil-rich Kuwait by its much larger neighbor, Iraq, led by Saddam Hussein. A multinational military response organized by the United Nations and led by the United States was successful in removing the dictator's forces in 1991. The 42-day war was fought by a coalition of military units from 35 countries with new military technologies which were used efficiently to defeat the 5th largest military in the world at that time: Iraq.

Democratic Candidate

The Democrats nominated William Jefferson Clinton as the presidential candidate in 1992. Bill Clinton was considered a "New Democrat", intentionally moderate on social and economic policies. Out of the White House since 1981, the Democratic Party realized they had to run a candidate that would be tough on crime and address the abuse of social services (welfare) in order to win over middle-class voters. A renewed push for national health care was central to the platform of Clinton, an Arkansas lawyer, state Attorney General, and Governor. The candidate also benefitted from election media likening Clinton to John F. Kennedy.

1992 Presidential Election Candidates Study SmarterPresident Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Third-Party Candidate

A strong third-party bid was made by Texas billionaire Ross Perot. Perot ran as an unaffiliated, independent candidate on a reform-based platform that would later become the Reform Party (post-election). The technology business leader personally financed most of his campaign which focused on balancing the budget, promoting American business, combatting drugs, and making the democratic process more transparent and accessible through technology. Electoral reform emerged as a campaign issue and the success of his third-party run is confirmation. Perot also focused on the protection of American corporations and lamented Clinton's proposal for free trade agreements.

We have got to stop sending jobs overseas. It's pretty simple: If you're paying $12, $13, $14 an hour for factory workers and you can move your factory South of the border, pay a dollar an hour for labor... have no health care —that's the most expensive single element in making a car— have no environmental controls, no pollution controls, and no retirement, and you don't care about anything but making money, there will be a giant sucking sound going south."

–Ross Perot during 2nd Presidential Debate

1992 Presidential election candidates studysmarter

Texas billionaire and independent presidential candidate, Ross Perot. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

1992 Presidential Election Results

Results
Bill Clinton (Democrat)
George H. W. Bush (Republican)
Ross Perot (independent)
Electoral Vote
370
168
0
Popular Vote
44,858,000
38,799,000
19,743,000
% of Popular Vote
43%
37%
19%
Table of the 1992 presidential election results. Source: StudySmarter Original

1992 Presidential Election Major Issues

In 1992, America was experiencing peace and population growth. The candidates offered proposals for trade, health care, welfare, and criminal justice reform. Bush pointed to his foreign policy successes while Perot and Clinton offered alternatives. The biggest issue on the minds of voters in 1992 was the economy. In 1990, America entered an economic recession.

Recession: A significant decline in economic activity lasting months or years.

(it's) the economy, stupid!" –James Carville, Clinton campaign strategist

Most Americans were concerned about the loss of American jobs as a result of corporate downsizing and hiring reductions. An increase in federal budget deficits caused many politicians and citizens to call for tax changes, an examination of federal spending, and a focus on improving the economy overall. Political polling showed concern about the economy even when individuals' personal finances had not deteriorated.

The 1990 Census revealed America's ageing population and the growth of "Sunbelt" states in the South and West. The total population was just under two hundred and forty-nine million people, with most living in large cities and suburbs.

1992 Presidential Election Polls

1st Place
2nd Place
3rd Place
March
Bush 44%
Clinton 25%
Perot 24%
April
Bush 41%
Clinton 26%
Perot 25%
May
Bush 35%
Clinton 27%
Perot 33%
June
Perot 36%
Bush 30%
Clinton 25%
July
Clinton 52%
Bush 38%
Perot left race
August
Clinton 53%
Bush 39%
Perot left race
September (Perot rejoins race)
Clinton 52%
Bush 39%
Perot 8%
October
Clinton 45%
Bush 34%
Perot 16%
November
Clinton 49%
Bush 37%
Perot 14%
Actual
Clinton 43%
Bush 37%
Perot 19%

1992 Presidential Election Average monthly polling data compiled from Gallup Polling. StudySmarter Original.

1992 Presidential Election Electoral Map

1992 presidential election, results in the map, StudySmarter

U.S. Electoral College map of the 1992 presidential election. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Final Electoral College Tally

Bill Clinton (winner) - 370

George Bush - 168

Ross Perot - 0

Candidates need to win 270 out of 538 electoral votes. Each state gets a number of votes equal to the number of representatives and senators in Congress. The District of Columbia also receives 3 electoral votes.

1992 Presidential Election Significance

Clinton's win was the last time a candidate won the Presidency without winning Florida. The election is an example of a President unable to win re-election, representing voter dissatisfaction with the candidate or state of the nation. Clinton won a plurality of the vote rather than a majority as Ross Perot was able to win a significant 19% of the vote.

Historians such as William Chafe have maintained that Bill Clinton's landslide electoral victory did not give him a strong governing mandate due to the close popular vote and support for a third political party. Many have argued that Perot voters drew more votes from Bush than from Clinton although the actual results vary with interpretation. What is clear is that a large number of Americans were concerned about the economy and did not like the two-party offerings. William Jefferson Clinton offered a positive, fresh alternative that appealed to many voters nationwide.

1992 Presidential Election - Key takeaways

  • President George H. W. Bush was running for re-election as the Republican nominee.
  • Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton was running as the Democrat nominee.
  • Texas technology billionaire H. Ross Perot ran a largely self-funded independent campaign.
  • The central election issue was the economy that was in recession
  • The election was a landslide win for Bill Clinton who won 370 electoral votes, more than double Bush's earned votes.
  • The election contained the strongest third-party results since the election of 1912.
  • Perot's support certainly impacted the overall results of the election.
  • Bush's success with the end of the Cold War and the Persian Gulf War was overshadowed by Americans' preoccupation with their economic situation.

Frequently Asked Questions about 1992 Presidential Election

Bill Clinton, the Democratic candidate, won the 1992 election. 

George H. W. Bush ran for re-election against Bill Clinton and a third-party reformer, Ross Perot.

George Bush lost the election due to the economic concerns of voters. Some historians and pollsters also note the impact of Perot's candidacy on the final vote. 

The main focus of the election ultimately was the economy, although foreign affairs, health care, crime, election reform were key issues. 

Perot ran as an independent whose party would later be called the Reform Party. 

Final 1992 Presidential Election Quiz

Question

Who won over 50% of the popular vote? 

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Answer

no candidate

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Question

Which candidate ran an independent political campaign?

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Answer

George Bush

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Question

What became the primary campaign issue on the minds of the voters?

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Answer

The economy (in recession)

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Question

Which candidate pushed for election reform and transparency? 

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Answer

The Republican

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Question

In 1992, America had recently been successful in which of the following?

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Answer

beginning  the Cold War

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Question

The winner of the electoral vote also won the popular vote.

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Answer

True

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Question

The election contained the strongest third-party results since the election of 1912.


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Answer

True

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Question

George H.W. Bush ran for re-election against Democrat Ross Perot and a third-party reformer - Bill Clinton


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Answer

False

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Question

What is an economic recession?

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Answer

A significant decline in economic activity lasting months or years. 

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Question

The 1992 election featured 

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Answer

a focus on the ongoing Cold War

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Question

Bill Clinton was a self-proclaimed..

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Answer

moderate

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Question

What was the result of the 1992 election?

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Answer

Bill Clinton took office with a new, moderate approach.

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Question

How can we characterize the role of a third party in American politics as a result of this election?

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Answer

A third party was shown to be unable to gain double-digit popular support

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Question

Whose "no new taxes"  impacted his candidacy?

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Answer

Bush

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