Why does the party in power lose seats in midterms?

Updated: Sep 10


1. The opposition is energized

· Even more so if the party in power successfully implements their agenda

· They “nationalize” local elections

2. The party in power isn’t as engaged...APATHY

· They won so there is no need to turnout

· The President can’t keep all his promises

· They are alienated by the President’s choices


3. Midterms are a more partisan, older electorate


4. Voters go to the polls when they are angry or afraid, not when they are satisfied


1. They are low turnout elections (no low-frequency voters nor independents)

2. They lose seats even if they successfully implemented their agenda



Fun Facts:


1. The President’s Party has only gained seats (and only a few) in the House AND Senate twice: 1934 (FDR/Depression) and 2002 (Bush/911). In 1998 Clinton gained 5 house seats and didn’t lose any senate ones. So only 3 times has the President gained seats. Four other times the President gained senate seats and lost house seats.


2. Average loss of house and senate seats is 30.


3. "The stronger the presidential victory margin or, the more seats won in the presidential year and therefore 'at risk,' the greater will be the subsequent midterm seat loss."


4. Every 2 years, 1/3 of the senate seats are up, and all house seats are up.


5. The worst mid-term losses are usually in the first midterm, not the second one.


6. In 2018, Trump lost 41 house seats and gained 2 senate seats.


7. In 2010, Obama lost 63 house seats and 6 senate seats.


8. In 2006, Bush lost 30 house seats and 6 senate seats.


9. In 1994, Clinton lost 52 house and 8 senate seats.


10. In 2022, we will be fighting for redistricted seats (from a crappy census).


11. In 2020, Democrats lost 11 house seats and gained 3 senate seats

Year

President

​Party

House

Senate

Total


1934

1938

1942

1946

1950

1954

1958

1962

1966

1970

1974

1978

1982

1986

1990

1994

1998

2002

2006

2010

2014

2018

Franklin D. Roosevelt

Franklin D. Roosevelt

Franklin D. Roosevelt

Harry S. Truman

Harry S. Truman

Dwight D. Eisenhower

Dwight D. Eisenhower

John F. Kennedy

Lyndon B. Johnson

Richard Nixon

Gerald R. Ford

Jimmy Carter

Ronald Reagan

Ronald Reagan

George Bush

William J. Clinton

William J. Clinton

George W. Bush

George W. Bush

Barack Obama

Barack Obama

Donald Trump

​D

D

D

D

D

R

R

D

D

R

R

D

R

R

R

D

D

R

R

D

D

R

+9

-71

-55

-45

-29

-18

-48

-4

-47

-12

-48

-15

-26

-5

-8

-52

+5

+8

-30

-63

-13

-41

+9

-6

-9

-12

-6

-1

-13

+3

-4

+2

-5

-3

+1

-8

-1

-8

0

+2

-6

-6

-9

+2

+18

-77

-64

-57

-35

-19

-61

-1

-51

-10

-63

-18

-25

-13

-9

-60

+5

+10

-36

-69

-21

-39


There will be losses, the question is what the size will be. It will depend on:

· Economic Conditions

· Presidential Popularity

· Strength of the Withdrawn Presidential Coattails


Two Theories

1. Current conditions affect vote…popularity of President, economic conditions

2. Coattails cause surge in presidential election and this declines in mid-term…why first midterm is more affected. The stronger the showing in the Presidential election, the stronger the coattails, the bigger the decline.


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