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How many national seats did the Democrats lose under Carter?

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Approximately 20% of their national seats: 14 seats in the Senate (23%). 48 in the House (16%).

To get the percentage we computed seats lost / initial seats for both chambers to get individual seats lost percentages. We then average the percentages together to get a single number, essentially weighting the seats (Senate vs. House) by their relative individual significance.

Origin and Prevalence

Congressional elections are often counter-cyclical, and a recent question that has arisen is how out of line the Republican gain in the legislature and at the state level with historical norms. Here we examine how many seats Jimmy Carter lost during his presidency at the national level.

Issues and Analysis

The theory is that while a presidential election may have coattails, they are more than offset but subsequent mid-terms, and higher mobilization of the opposition in the end of the president's term. So we will be measuring the difference between the number of seats held in January 1977 vs. number of seats held in January 1981.


On opening day 1977, the Senate was split 61-39 in favor of the Democrats. On opening day 1981, the Senate was split 47-53, favor of Republicans ( Harry F. Byrd, an independent, represents the 61st/47th vote for the Democrats). This comes to a loss of fourteen seats, for an overall loss of 23%.


In 1977 the Dems had the advantage: 292 to 143. They retained the advantage, but with major losses. By January 1981, the House was split 244-191 in favor of Democrats, for a loss of 48 seats, or 16%.

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