Are Democrats heading for the midterm elections? – Sabatore


Key points from this article

– Presidential party midterm loss is a regular feature of American politics.

– The number of President Biden is also weak. But it could be that Democrats will in some ways stay away from potential “shellac”.

– Democrats may lose a majority in their House, although their total net loss is likely to be much lower than in some past GOP wave years simply because the Democratic majority is already very small.

– This year’s combination of Senate maps gives Democrats a chance to fight to retain their majority there.

A democratic “shelling” loom?

One of the most regular manifestations of American politics is the tendency to lose congressional seats in midterm elections. The presidency has lost 17 of the 19 midterm seats in the House and 13 of the 19 midterm seats in the Senate since World War II. Across all 19 midterm elections, the president’s party lost an average of about 27 seats in the House and about 3.5 seats in the Senate.

While the midterm elections rarely bring good news for White House occupiers, the level of damage to the presidency can vary widely. The results of each midterm election are not “shallowing”, as President Obama famously described the results of the 2010 midterm elections, in which his party lost 64 seats in the House and 6 in the Senate. Table 1 presents a classification of midterm elections since World War II based on the extent of the presidential party’s losses.

Table 1: Classification of Intermediate Results for the President’s Party, 1946-2018

Source: Information compiled by the author

Based on this classification scheme, there has been a “shellac” for the presidential party between one-fourth and one-third of the term. The president’s party did worse than expected from opinion polls, which saw them at gaining about 50 seats. At the other end of the spectrum, there have been 5 interim terms where the President’s party has lost less than 10 seats in the House, including 2 elections where the President’s party has won seats. Similarly, there have been 4 elections where the President’s party has won seats in the Senate and 2 more where no net change has taken place.

Figure 1: Mid-election, swing of the Senate seat by the swing of the House seat in 1946-2018

Source: Information compiled by the author

It is important to note that midterm elections do not always produce consistent results when it comes to changing seats in the House and Senate. As the data in Figure 1 shows, there is only a decent relationship between the results of the House and the Senate – the correlation between the 2 is only .52. While some intermediate periods, such as 1946 and 1958, have resulted in double shelling, others have produced inconsistent results. In 2018, for example, Republicans won 1 more Senate seat than they did in 2016 when they lost about 40 seats in the House.

What to expect in 2022

There seems to be a growing consensus among scholars and political observers that Democrats could feel a shock in the mid-2022 election, especially in the House of Representatives. According to observers such as Chuck Todd and Mark Marr of NBC News, a number of indicators are now pointing to big losses for Democrats, especially President Biden’s poor approval rating and a large section of Americans who believe the country is currently on the wrong track. Or went astray.

But while Biden’s approval ratings have been stuck in the lower 40s for months, this is clearly a danger signal for Democrats, who have not historically made a very accurate prediction of a mid-seat swing. For the 19 midterm elections since World War II, the correspondence between the House Seat Swing and the Net President’s approval (approval-approval) relationship is rather modest. Presidential approval explains only 44% of changes in the House Seat Swing and only 13% of changes in the Senate Seat Swing. Unfortunately, the data for the “correct track / incorrect track” query is only available for the last 10 intermediate selections, so it is difficult to predict its value as an intermediate result prediction.

One indicator that has been shown to make a more accurate prediction of the swing of both the House and Senate seats than the approval of the President is the generic ballot – a question where voters are asked which party they plan to vote for without naming individual House or Senate candidates. By combining the results of the generic ballot vote with the House or Senate seat that the President’s party is defending in each election, we can make a reasonably accurate prediction of the seat swing, although these predictions are more accurate for the House seat swing than the Senate seat. Swing

Table 2: Regression Analysis of Seat Swing in Midterm Elections, 1946-2018

Source: Information compiled by the author

Table 2 shows the approximate regression coefficient for the generic ballot model for elections between the House and Senate between 1946 and 2018. Two predictions – a generic ballot margin for the president’s party and a risky seat for the president’s party – have significant implications for both the House and the Senate election. The model explains the 80% variability of the House election results and about 60% variability of the Senate election results. The results in Table 2 indicate that a 10-point change in the generic ballot creates a swing of about 17 seats in the House and 2 seats in the Senate. The results further indicate that for the presidential party to win an additional 10 seats in the House for a midterm election, it can expect to lose an additional 6.4 seats, and for every additional 10 seats the president’s party risks losing an additional 8.5 seats in the Senate.

Table 3: Changes to Democratic seats are predicted in the mid-2022 elections

Source: Information compiled by the author

Based on the approximate coefficients of Table 2, we can conditionally predict the swing of the House and Senate seats in the 2022 election, depending on the general ballot voting in the fall. The results of Table 3 indicate that based on the recent generic ballot polls compiled by Five Thirty, where Republicans have held a lead of just over 2 points on average over the past few weeks, Democrats can expect to lose and even break about 19 seats in the House. Senate. Of course, there is a margin of error associated with predictions. Based on the standard error of estimating the two models (approximately 10 seats for the House model and approximately 3 seats for the Senate model), we can say that there is a high probability that Democrats will lose 9 to 29 seats in the House. . The potential range of Senate results goes from losing 3 seats to gaining 3 seats

The results of Table 3 indicate that with the loss of the party in 1994 or 2010, Democrats are less likely to face shelling in 2022, they are almost certain to lose their majority in the lower house. Even if they hold a slight lead in the generic ballot in the fall, they could lose more than 5 seats which would cost them a majority. On the other hand, Senate predictions indicate that Democrats have an equal chance of retaining control of that chamber.

The main reason for limiting the potential size of democratic damage in the House and the proposal to keep them in control of the Senate is the number of seats in the 2 chambers. Although the extremely small size of the democratic majority in the House makes it possible for them to lose control of the chamber, it also reduces the amount of damage they expect. For example, if Democrats currently hold 252 seats in the House instead of 222, their expected loss would be 19 to 38.

In the Senate, the seats at risk have a stronger impact. If Democrats retain 20 seats this year instead of just 14, their expected loss would jump from 0 to 5. The class of seats available for the 2022 election is disproportionately Republican, giving Democrats a fair chance to retain control. Chamber


Democrats could lose their majority in the House of Representatives and Senate in the midterm elections in 2022, although this is less certain. However, neither side has experienced the kind of shock that both sides have experienced in the post-war midterm elections. This is simply because they won 222 seats in the House in 2020 and only 14 seats in the Senate. Very few of those Democratic seats in the House and none of the Democratic seats in the Senate are in the districts or states that will be held by Donald Trump in 2020, making it even less likely that the size of the party will be shaken. We’ve seen something in the past, mid-term, or even closer to it – even Republicans could very well overturn both chambers of Congress this fall.

Alan I. Abramovitz Alban W. Professor of Political Science at Emery University in Berkeley and a senior columnist Saturday’s Crystal Ball. His latest book, The Great Alignment: Race, Party Transformation, and the Rise of Donald TrumpPublished in 2018 by Yale University Press.

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