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Check Our Assumptions About Midterm Elections

John Stoehr of the Editorial Board asks us to check our assumptions about midterm elections as he examines what happens to the party holding the presidency over a longer time period.

While we hear so much about how the party holding the presidency loses Congressional seats during the midterm election, this “fact” is based only on recent elections and excludes data from much of the last century:

One is that the Congress did not change after the following midterm elections, according to my friend Bill Scher, who writes for Politico magazine, the Washington MonthlyRealClear Politics and others. 

Since 1900, they are: 1902, 1906, 1914, 1922, 1926, 1930, 1934, 1938, 1942, 1950, 1958, 1962, 1966, 1970, 1974, 1978, 1982, 1990 and 1998. 

That’s 19 midterms. There were 25 in the 20th century.

Six midterms flipped the Congress in 100 years.

There are other strong factors in play this year, starting with heavy partisan-based gerrymandering in Republican-held states. But we should be careful to base too much of our analysis on a small dataset.

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