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I'm trying to find data on the breakdown of the popular vote in each U.S. county, for each presidential election going back as far as possible. I realize that counties change over time, but are these data available somewhere in machine-readable format?

For example, I'm trying to find the data behind this map:

popular vote by county, 2012 U.S. presidential election

for as many presidential elections as possible. Obviously going back decades means that not all of these states existed (as states) at the time, but I'm still hoping the data are available. Some data are available in PDF format here but are there other sources that are easier to work with?

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Because of the decentralized nature of US elections it's difficult to find a free, public source for county or precinct level election data. The Federal Election Commission only publishes state-level results. The Census Bureau does not publish data on election results - they publish survey data from the CPS that shows how many people are registered and how many voted - but not who they voted for.

The National Atlas (which no longer exists - de-funded) did publish county-level results. Previously, if you searched http://www.data.gov/ for Presidential General Election Results county you'd find archived versions of the data from 2012, 2008, and 2004. But - in 2017 this data mysteriously vanished from the repository. Luckily I had saved copies of them, and you can access them from my college's repository here:

https://www.baruch.cuny.edu/confluence/display/geoportal/US+Presidential+Election+County+Results

There's also a project at Harvard where they're gathering county and precinct data, but the county results appear to be state by state: http://projects.iq.harvard.edu/eda/pages/about.

Gathering it the hard way would be to go to each election office, state by state... the Harvard site has a link to each state secretary of state who is charged with collecting this information - Wikipedia also provides direct links back to individual state election results pages.

  • Thanks for this; can you point me to the part of the Harvard site that links to each Secretary of State's office? I didn't see anywhere that listed those links. – Michael A Dec 18 '15 at 14:59
  • Sorry about that - it's not actually on the Harvard site, it's here: nass.org/contact/sos-members These are the officials responsible for overseeing elections at the state level. There are links to the individual state SOS pages. It could still be a real slog from there to find the actual data - this is more direct: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… – fdonnelly Dec 18 '15 at 16:22
  • Thanks for the update. Some of the links on the Wikipedia page are dead, but it's not hard to find the Secretary of State for individual states. – Michael A Dec 22 '15 at 14:29
  • The data.gov 2012 presidential county data appears to be missing 5% or more of the counties. – Aaron Kreider Mar 19 '16 at 4:02
  • The data.gov 2008 presidential county data is good. – Aaron Kreider Mar 19 '16 at 5:08
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US Presidential General Elections data by county
years 2000 through 2016 Unofficial

  • Transformed data is in the output/ folder
  • Plots are in the plots/ folder
  • Data sources are cited
  • Most of original data is available in the data/ folder

[https://github.com/stoneyv/presidential_general_elections/tree/master/output]

2012 US Presidential General Election Democrat Vote Percentages by County

  • I am still resolving issues with Alaska data entries using precinct and district data. Alaskan boroughs are the equivalent to counties.
  • I used unofficial 2016 results that were scraped by Tony McGovern from TownHall
  • I used National Atlas data from USGS for years 2012,2008, and 2004
  • For year 2000, I used data from
    David Lublin and D. Stephen Voss. 2001. "Federal Elections Project." American University, Washington, DC and the University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY.

I recommend that you read the Sunlight document that was mentioned above as well as fdonnely's reply. I am refactoring the plots so that both party percentages are rendered in a single plot.

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edit:
open elections has this data, at least for most states, there are a few still in progress. I'm from Virginia so thats the only one that I checked: 2012 has November General Election CSV has personal voting data including voter's name (imho a huge privacy fail and disservice to citizens) and precinct:
http://openelections.net/

Texas has county-level voter turnout/elections history data from 1992 to current. Looks like some of the presidential data may be spread out in individual documents by county per year, so you'll probably have to scrape this site:
http://elections.sos.state.tx.us/

Sunlight Foundation has a good post regarding elections open data where I came across most of this:
https://sunlightfoundation.com/blog/2015/02/27/elections-the-final-frontier-of-open-data/

second edit:
You can also find this data by congressional district, so not the county level like you requested, but still more fine-tuned than state level here:
http://history.house.gov/Institution/Election-Statistics/Election-Statistics/

here's data for 2012 from the guardian:
http://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2012/nov/07/us-2012-election-county-results-download#data
that's to your question about the data behind the svg, not as far back as possible. census bureau should have this data...

  • Thank you. Do you know where the Census would have these data? I've looked through most of their site, as far as I can tell, but all I've been able to find is the UCSB Presidential Elections project, which only has detailed data for the 2012 election, and even those data aren't easy to work with since they're in scanned PDF format. – Michael A Dec 15 '15 at 21:51
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    The Guardian 2012 county data misses 5% of the counties. – Aaron Kreider Mar 19 '16 at 5:09
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In some cases the OP might have to settle for state level data. Or this might help other people who have a similar question and would settle for state-level data.

David Leip's Atlas of US Presidential elections has state-level data in html tables for many years.

Election statistics 1920-2014 link here

  • I'll look into the state-level data. Your original comment about your last link (which was originally posted by albert in this answer) is important, since extracting all the information from PDF is non-trivial. – Michael A Dec 22 '15 at 14:32
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I created a web app for this including free api. https://electionsbycounty.com. This goes as far back as 1920 Presidential elections.

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