The 1992 election was the first after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Soviet collapse, events that brought the Cold War to an end. It was fought shortly after the victory in the first Persian Gulf War, an event that made President George H. W. Bush's popularity rating soar to 89% in 1991. Yet, in a year, the political situation changed dramatically as Bush had to face economic recession and rising unemployment. Because of the already high federal debt, the government couldn't act to stimulate the economy and the number of poor Americans increased to the highest point since 1964. Violent race riots in Los Angeles in 1992 contributed to show that President Bush did not have a definite agenda for American home affairs.
Seeking his second term, Bush found that the opposition front was gaining ground, not only thanks to the charisma of Democratic candidate Bill Clinton, but also because of growing hostility from independents. The 1992 election witnessed the strongest performance of a third-party candidate, Ross Perot, in eighty years. Multimillionaire Perot used plain language to get his message across and obtained 19% of the popular vote.
The 1992 election also signalled a shift in the politicies of the Democratic Party after three terms in opposition. The 46-year-old Clinton, the first of the baby boomer generation to be a presidential nominee, sought to present a new, more moderate image of the Democratic Party to appeal to those white suburbanites who had deserted it in the Reagan-Bush era. He famously declared that he wanted to "modernize liberalism so that it could sell again".
Because of the three candidates and the electoral college system, Clinton was elected President although his percentage of the popular vote (43%) was lower than those of the two other candidates combined (Bush 37% and Perot 19%). Clinton's percentage of the popular vote was the lowest for an elected President since the 1912 election when Woodrow Wilson obtained 42%.