what does "stole an election" mean in:

Marcos stole an election in the Philippines.

Does it mean:

Marcos won an election in the Philippines.


Marcos won illegally an election in the Philippines.


  • Marcos won an election by unlawful means in the Philippines.
    – JayHook
    Jul 7, 2013 at 17:09
  • It is a GR question. Jul 7, 2013 at 17:25
  • 3
    I went to OneLook, and then checked the entries for steal from four dictionaries (1, 2, 3, 4). In my opinion, none of those definitions could readily, satisfactorily describe the word steal in the context of "stealing an election." Therefore, I don't see how this falls under the category of general reference.
    – J.R.
    Jul 8, 2013 at 1:03

2 Answers 2


It depends on the context.

He stole the election

could mean:

  • he won the election by some kind of unscrupulous means (that might include voter fraud, a dirty campaign, the miscounting of ballots, etc.)

or, it could mean:

  • he won the election by a razor-thin margin (particularly if he was not projected to win, but made an 11th-hour comeback)

When an election is close, it probably means a combination of those two, because, the closer an election, the more people start to think about how the result might have been altered had one or two factors gone differently.

When an election is a landslide, though, stealing an election would generally imply that some kind of dirty tactics were used, either on election day, or during the campaign.


Merriam Webster defines “to steal“ as

to seize, gain, or win by trickery, skill, or daring <a basketball player adept at stealing the ball> <stole the election>

So, in my understanding¹, “stealing an election“ does not mean simply winning an election, but winning it by doing something special. That can be because of great skill or because of manipulation. So, I think, it depends on the context (Which election? Author's background? …) which one is meant.

For the given example, it means – as JayHook stated already – that Marcos won by unlawful means.

¹ I'm not a native speaker.

  • 2
    Michael, in that case I would say "fraudulent means" rather than "unlawful means". It seems to be more appropriate, +1.
    – user114
    Jul 7, 2013 at 17:39
  • I'm neither an expert regarding Marcos nor the Philippines. So I just quoted JayHook. ;)
    – Michael
    Jul 7, 2013 at 17:44

You must log in to answer this question.