The Journal of Politics


The Importance of Being Republican: Forecasting Party Fortunes in House Midterm Elections

John J. Colemana1

a1 University of Wisconsin-Madison


Few observers expected the massive Democratic defeat in the 1994 House election. In 1982 observers were surprised by how few seats the Republicans lost. These two examples suggest the possibility of a wider phenomenon: Republicans are relatively advantaged in midterm elections. Models containing party variables and key variables from various midterm election models provide an excellent fit to the 1950–1994 data and support the hypothesis that Republicans save more seats than do Democrats when presidential approval, economic growth, surge and decline, and safe seats are controlled. These contrasting party fates may be related to different expectations voters bring to Republican and Democratic presidencies. Bringing party into midterm forecasting shows that the 54 seats lost in 1994 were not surprising for the Democrats, but under similar conditions the Republicans would lose only about 20 seats.

(Accepted April 10 1995)

(Received April 10 1996)

John J. Coleman is assistant professor of political science, University of Wisconsin–Madison, Madison WI 53706.