FixGovWhy did house Democrats underperform contrasted to Joe Biden?William A. GalstonMonday, December 21, 2020
The outcomes of the 2020 poll pose several puzzles, among which is the gap in between Joe Biden’s handsome victory in the presidential race and the Democrats’ disappointing performance in the residence of Representatives. Biden appreciated an sheet of 7.1 million votes (4.5%) over President Trump, when the Democrats endured a loss of 13 seat in the House, reducing their margin indigenous 36 to simply 10.

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What happened? 2 explanations was standing out. First, 2018 to be such a strong year for home Democrats the they would have been hard-pressed to same it in 2020, uneven Republicans had stayed home in droves and also Joe Biden had actually won the presidential election in a landslide. Second, more Democrats 보다 Republicans who voted in the presidential dispute failed to vote for their party’s candidate, to reduce their chances of prevailing in nearby races. And as always, the inefficient geographical circulation of democratic voters hampered the party’s initiative to get ground.

Turnout in the 2018 mid-term election reached its highest level in an ext than a century. Democrats to be fervently protest to the Trump administration and turned out in droves. Contrasted to its power in 2016, the party’s full House vote dropped by only 2%. Without Donald Trump at the head the the ticket, Republican voter were much less enthusiastic, and the complete House poll for Republican candidates fell by almost 20% from 2016. Autonomous candidates received almost 10 million much more votes 보다 Republican candidates, a margin of 8.6%, the highest ever for a party that was formerly in the minority. It was, in short, a spectacular year for house Democrats.

Against this backdrop, autonomous leaders’ expectation of extr gains in 2020 rest on improbable assumptions. V President Trump in ~ the optimal of the ticket, Republican turnout for home races to be bound to increase substantially over the depressed level of 2018. Back Democrats boosted their total House votes by an estimated 16.8 million over 2018, republicans did better, gaining an estimated 21.9 million. The Democrats’ well-known vote margin in residence races fell by more than half, indigenous 8.6% to an estimated 3%. Provided these results, democracy did fine to host their seat loss come 13.

The second explanation because that the residence results is even much more straightforward. The complete vote actors for Republican house candidates in 2020 was 1.4 million much less than because that President Trump, if the full vote cast for democratic House candidates fell short of Joe Biden’s full by 3.9 million. This helps define why Biden’s margin end Trump was 1.5 percent points bigger than home Democrats’ advantage over residence Republicans. This down-ballot shortfall made it harder because that Democrats come win very closely contested contests.

To understand the difference this autonomous disadvantage have the right to make, compare the 2020 presidential and House results in five critical swing states.

Table 1: Presidential versus home results (votes in thousands)


ArizonaGeorgiaMichiganPennsylvaniaWisconsin
Democratic House1,6292,3932,6893,3471,567
Democratic Pres.1,6722,4742,8043,4601,610
Democratic house minus Pres.-33 -81-115 -113-43
Republican House1,6392,4902,6173,4331,661
Republican Pres.1,6622,4622,6503,3781,631
Republican house minus Pres.-23+28-33+55+30

In all five states, home Democrats ran fine behind Joe Biden. By contrast, home Republicans ran ahead of president Trump in three of the five, and their shortfall was much less than the democracy in the staying two. If trump had gotten as numerous votes in Georgia together his party’s residence candidates, the would have actually won the race by 16,000 votes rather than shedding it by 12,000.

In enhancement to this two brand-new explanations because that the residence results, over there is a an ext familiar factor—namely, the inefficient circulation of autonomous votes.

Table 2: contested versus uncontested house races


 DemocratsRepublicans
Total home votes (millions)77.472.8
Total residence votes in uncontested gyeongju (millions)5.02.1
Total seats winner in uncontested races198
Total house votes in contested races72.470.7
Total seats won in challenged races203204

As Table 2 indicates, much more than 60% the the Democrats’ 4.6 million vote benefit in residence votes is attributable to your 2.9 million poll edge in simply 27 uncontested races, of i m sorry Democrats winner 19. Democrats enjoyed an benefit of just 1.7 million votes (about 1%) in the 408 challenged races, i m sorry the next split nearly evenly (one race continues to be undetermined). The Republicans winner the mass of the contests settled by much less than 2 portion points, including most the the gyeongju in which regulate shifted in between the parties.


To amount up: return Democrats labor under a long-standing structure disadvantage in the House, your disappointing performance in 2020 reflects two other factors—unrealistic expectation of boosting on their hard-to-equal power in 2018, and also the huge number of voter who significant their ballots because that Joe Biden however not for democratic House candidates.

At this point, we do not understand why so numerous Biden voter behaved in this way. Part may have actually been republicans who can no longer stomach chairman Trump yet could not support the democratic Party’s agenda and wanted to counterbalance the new administration. Others may have been marginal democrats who execute not follow national politics or poll regularly and also were carried to the polling-booth just by their antipathy to the president. Democrats in congressional districts where the party’s candidates ran uncontested races may have voted for Biden and stopped there since they knew their vote for residence candidates do no difference. No doubt there are other hypotheses.

One point is clear: autonomous strategists would certainly be well-advised to gain to the bottom that this puzzle, which virtually cost the party its control of the house in a year when its leaders were expecting to increase their majority—and would have done for this reason if an ext of Biden’s voters had supported the party’s house candidates.

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Acknowledgments:

The writer wishes to acknowledge the superb research aid of Abeera Saeed, who performed the evaluation that documented the lot of gaps between Trump and Biden voter in 435 congressional races and also the states.