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Distribution of votes in the 1856 US presidential election

Published by Statista Research Department,
The 18th presidential election of the United States was contested in 1856 by James Buchanan of the Democratic Party, John C Frémont of the Republican Party, and former President Millard Fillmore of the Native American (Know Nothing) Party. This was the first time that the Republican Party (founded in 1854) fielded a nominee, and, although unsuccessful here, the Republicans would go on to win 13 of the next 15 US presidential elections.


No candidate won over half of the popular vote, however Buchanan's plurality did give him 59 percent of the electoral votes, making him the fifteenth President of the United States. With this victory, Buchanan became the only President in US history to be elected despite the incumbent president being from the same party and eligible for re-election. Buchanan won 19 out of 31 states (including all of the south), while Frémont took 11 states (all "free states" and in the north), and Fillmore carried just one state; Maryland. The reason for the Democratic Party's dominance in the south was their emphasis on sovereignty, giving states autonomy on the issue of slavery.

The Know Nothing Party

The ironically titled Native American Party, which began as a secret society, was an anti-Catholic, anti-immigration and xenophobic organization, that became the largest third party in the US in the 1850s. Although they changed their name to the American Party in 1855, they were most commonly known as the "Know Nothing" Party, as when members were asked about specific details regarding the movement they were obliged to reply with "I know nothing". While the party's existence was short-lived, they were the main alternative to the Democratic Party in the south during this time, as the newly-formed Republican Party's anti-slavery stance made them unpopular in the south.

Share of electoral college* and popular votes** in the 18th US presidential election in 1856

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Release date



United States

Survey time period


Supplementary notes

*Actual number of electoral votes:
James Buchanan - 174
John C. Frémont - 114
Millard Fillmore - 8

**Actual number of popular votes:
James Buchanan - 1,836,072
John C. Frémont - 1,342,345
Millard Fillmore - 872,703

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