A House Disappointment

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"A House Disappointment"

There’s some sentiment out and about that Democrats “underperformed” in House of Representatives races, perhaps because (in Mickey Kaus’ words) “swing voters compensated for the bold, hopeful risk they took on Obama (including for overcoming any race prejudice) by gravitating back toward Republicans in their local Senate and House races.” In reality, as Andrew Gelman shows, there was a strong uniform swing toward the House Democrats:


As he notes, this was actually larger and more uniform than the fairly large and fairly uniform swing toward Obama:


The House Democrats will presumably have outperformed the presidential ticket in terms of swing because they can individually tailor their message to the different natures of politically and socioeconomically diverse congressional districts.

All told, 56 percent of Americans voted for a House Democrat whereas only 52 percent voted for a Republican in 1994. That’s a larger majority than Obama got and, indeed, would have been considered a pretty crushing landslide on the presidential label. It’s difficult to interpret what voters “want” based on their voting behavior, but it’s difficult to see this outcome as consistent with the idea that voters became nervous that congressional Democrats would rubber stamp an Obama agenda. There was both a strong level of support for House Democrats and a strong trend toward supporting them.

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