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Does gaining the Presidency lose a party national legislative seats in the U.S.?

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Yes.

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Origin and Prevalence

Many people have remarked on the losses in the Senate and House under Obama, which are large. From his inauguration to Trump's Obama lost almost 70 seats in the House (which totals only 435 members). We decided to investigate to find out how these losses fit into a broader historical context.

Here's the summary. We compute loss of seats in both the Senate and the House as a percentage of seats held going into inauguration against the seats held when that President leaves. This can broadly be seen as a measure of what the new president did with the party holdings they inherited.

Reagan/Bush are lumped together as it was a single period of party control. Carter had only one term, but there's no way around that, and the general pattern is that the biggest losses come in the first mid-term (this is violated by Bush 43, because like so much else, 9/11). FDR and Truman are also lumped together. Again, there are pros and cons to splitting these up to more accurately account for years held and adjacent presidents of the same party, but since out comparator is Obama's term, this way seems to make the most sense. Feel free to compute others.

House (% loss)

Senate (% loss)

Together (% loss)

Eisenhower

22%

27%

25%

Kennedy/Johnson

9%

12%

11%

Nixon

26%

9%

18%

Carter

16%

23%

20%

Reagan/Bush

8%

19%

14%

Clinton

22%

12%

17%

Bush

20%

18%

19%

Obama

28%

19%

24%

Issues and Analysis

Elections are rare events, and to take any meaningful sample without comparing oranges to apples is difficult. Looking at legislative wins and losses is particularly difficult as the near total dominance the Democrats enjoyed in early post-war America was fractured by Johnson's signing of the Civil Rights Act, causing major realignments throughout the 70s and early 1980s.

We decided to go back to the election of 1980, and compare losses and gains under presidents over the past thirty-six years. However, it might be interesting to see if this pattern also manifested in earlier periods as well.

Goin


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