The End of the Electoral Exploration

After a lot of reading and learning my project is coming to an end, for now at least. The most frustrating part of this project for me was choosing what information to actually put in my blog posts. I was surprised by the diverse topics researchers studied in each election; it seems they covered both elections from every angle. As much as I wanted to fit everything I found fascinating into my blog posts, I knew that wasn’t realistic. I could have done an entire post about the role of the “angry white male” in the 1994 election just because it was intriguing, but that topic wouldn’t help me draw conclusions about power-shifting midterm elections in general. The hardest part of research is separating what’s relevant from what’s interesting. Ultimately, I tried to find a balance between both.

When I first began this project, my goal was to determine what factors made a shift in power more likely in a midterm election. I hoped to achieve this goal by looking at two elections where the minority party took control of Congress, 1994 and 2006. After finishing my research, I found that there are a few factors that make these landslide elections more likely to occur. The first of these factors is low presidential popularity; when a president is strongly disliked by 30% or more of the population, that president’s party is more likely to lose power. In addition, a minority party is more likely to gain power when there is a national issue that voters feel the majority party has mishandled. The angrier a voter is, the more likely they are to actually go to the polls on Election Day. In 1994, that issue was the economy, and in 2006, it was the war in Iraq. Finally, a minority party is more likely to take control of Congress when they nationalize local races. By focusing on national issues, challengers can link majority party incumbents to the unpopular establishment in Washington and get them voted out of office.

So that’s the end of it. It’s been a lot of work, but it has also been a lot of fun. To find out more information about anything I discussed in my blog posts, please peruse the sources listed below.

Bibliography

“Electoral Surprise and the Midterm Loss in US Congressional Elections” by Kenneth Scheve and Michael Tomz (British Journal of Political Science, July 1999)

Klinkner, Philip A., and Charles O. Jones. Midterm: The Elections of 1994 in Context. Boulder, CO: Westview, 1996. Print.

“Partisan Turnout Bias in Midterm Legislative Elections” by Martin P. Wattenberg and Craig Leonard Brians (Legislative Studies Quarterly, August 2002)

“Political Science and the 1994 Elections: An Exploratory Essay” by Andrew E. Busch (PS: Political Science and Politics, December 1995)

“Presidential and Congressional Vote-Share Equations” by Ray C. Fair (American Journal of Political Science, January 2009)

“Republican Gains in the House in the 1994 Elections: Class Polarization in American Politics” by Jeffrey M. Stonecash and Mack D. Mariani (Political Science Quarterly, Spring 2000)

“Running on Iraq or Running from Iraq? Conditional Issue Ownership in the 2006 Midterm Elections” by David A. Dulio and Peter F. Trumbore (Political Research Quarterly, June 2009)

Sabato, Larry J. Get in the Booth: A Citizen’s Guide to the 2006 Midterm Elections. New York: Pearson Longman, 2007. Print.

Semiatin, Richard J. 2006 Midterm Elections. Boston: McGraw Hill Custom, 2007. Print.

“The 1994 House Elections in Perspective” by Gary C. Jacobson (Political Science Quarterly, Summer 1996)

“The End of the Democratic Era? 1994 and the Future of Congressional Election Research” by Alan I. Abramowitz (Political Research Quarterly, December 1995)

“The Iraq War, Partisanship, and Candidate Attributes: Variation in Partisan Swing in the 2006 U.S. House Elections” by Christian R. Grose and Bruce I. Oppenheimer (Legislative Studies Quarterly, November 2007)

“The Perils of Presidential Support: How the Republicans Took the House in the 1994 Midterm Elections” by David W. Brady, John F. Cogan, Brian J. Gaines and Douglas Rivers (Political Behavior, December 1996)

“The Polls: Presidential Referendum Effects in the 2006 Midterm Elections” by Jeffrey E. Cohen (Presidential Studies Quarterly, September 2007)

“The Presidential Pulse and the 1994 Midterm Congressional Election” by James E. Campbell (The Journal of Politics, August 1997)

“The Republican Tidal Wave of 1994: Testing Hypotheses about Realignment, Restructuring, and Rebellion” by Alfred J. Tuchfarber, Stephen E. Bennett, Andrew E. Smith and Eric W. Rademacher (PS: Political Science and Politics, December 1995)

Comments

  1. Gabriel Manion says:

    I love your project! Finally another political research project to balance out all the science ones.

    Your findings are quite interesting, especially in regards to the use of nationalization of issues on a local scale to swing elections. My research has been focused on political polarization in policy making since 1993 (Clinton’s health care plan), and I’ve noticed many of the same tactics in elections you have. The Republican strategies you mention in the 1994 election keep coming up in my research, especially due to their incredible party unity and resistance to Clinton’s platform. Consistently I have noticed that the minority party (especially the Republicans) use any means necessary to portray the opponents as harmful to the electorate. So, in short, I’ve seen much of what your research has shown, and I think you picked a great topic!

    A few quick questions: You concluded that minority parties use a mishandled issue to help gain back control. When you were researching the 1994 election, did Clinton’s health care bill come up often, and if so, what impact did it have on the election?

    Also, did you look into the most recent House election with its huge swing towards the Republicans?