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Determinants of the Outcomes of Midterm Congressional Elections*

  • Edward R. Tufte (a1)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 01 August 2014

An explanatory model for the outcomes of midterm congressional elections is developed. Midterms are a referendum on the performance of the President and his administration's management of the economy. The explanatory model of midterm congressional elections is sufficiently powerful so as to yield honest and accurate pre-election predictions of the national two-party vote in midterm elections. These predictions have usually outperformed pre-election forecasts based on survey data. The model is extended by considering the translation of votes into seats, models of the electorate as a whole and of the individual voter, and the causes of the off-year loss by the President's party.

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I wish to thank Marge Cruise, Jan Juran, Alice Anne Navin, Susan Spock, Michael Stoto, and Richard Sun for their help in the collection and analysis of the data. John L. McCarthy, Richard A. Brody, Gerald H. Kramer, Duane Lockard, David Seidman, and Jack Walker provided advice and encouragement. Financial support came from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University and from a fellowship at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences. Early drafts of the paper were presented in seminars at the Center (October, 1973); the Bay Area Political Behavior Seminar (January, 1974); and Princeton University (October, 1974). A partial, preliminary version of the model is reported in Edward R. Tufte, Data Analysis for Politics and Policy (Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1974), pp. 140–145. I wish also to thank several anonymous reviewers and Dr. Ellen Y. Siegelman of the Review for their helpful comments. These individuals and institutions do not, of course, bear responsibility for the faults of the study.

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This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

Donald E. Stokes and Warren E. Miller , “Party Government and the Saliency of Congress,“ Public Opinion Quarterly, 26 (Winter, 1962), 531546

Angus Campbell , “Voters and Elections: Past and Present,” Journal of Politics, 26 (11, 1964), 745757

Angus Campbell , “Surge and Decline: A Study of Electoral Change,” Public Opinion Quarterly, 24 (Fall, 1960), 397418

Chris Cook and John Ramsden , eds., By-Elections in British Politics (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1973)

James E. Piereson , “Presidential Popularity and Midterm Voting at Different Electoral Levels,” American Journal of Political Science, forthcoming, 11, 1975

Susan J. Lepper , “Voting Behavior and Aggregate Policy Targets,” Public Choice, 18 (Summer, 1974), 6781

Harvey Zeidenstein , “Measuring Congressional Seat Losses in Mid-Term Elections,” Journal of Politics, 34 (02, 1972), 272276

A. H. Taylor , “The Proportional Decline Hypothesis in English Elections,” Journal of the Royal Statistical Society, Series A, 135 (1972), 365369

Harvey M. Kabaker , “Estimating the Normal Vote in Congressional Elections,” Midwest Journal of Political Science, 13 (02, 1969), 5883

Rupert G. Miller Jr., “The Jackknife—A Review,” Technical Report No. 50 (08 28, 1973), Department of Statistics, Stanford University, Stanford, California

David R. Mayhew , “Congressional Elections: The Case of the Vanishing Marginals,” Polity, 6 (Spring, 1974), 295317

David W. Brady and Naomi B. Lynn , “Switched-Seat Congressional Districts: Their Effect on Party Voting and Public Policy,” American Journal of Political Science, 17 (08, 1973), 528543

Stanley Kelley Jr. and Thad Mirer , “The Simple Act of Voting,” American Political Science Review, 68 (06, 1974), 572591

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American Political Science Review
  • ISSN: 0003-0554
  • EISSN: 1537-5943
  • URL: /core/journals/american-political-science-review
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