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An Econometric Evaluation of Competing Explanations for the Midterm Gap

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  • Knight, Brian

Abstract

This paper provides a unified theoretical and empirical analysis of three long-standing explanations for the consistent loss of support for the president's party in midterm Congressional elections: (1) a presidential penalty, defined as a preference for supporting the opposition during midterm years, (2) a surge and decline in voter turnout, and (3) a reversion to the mean in voter partisanship. To quantify the contribution of each of these factors, an econometric model is developed in which voters jointly choose whether or not to participate and which party to support in both house and presidential elections. Estimated using ANES data from both presidential and midterm years, the model can fully explain the observed midterm gaps, and counterfactual simulations demonstrate that each factor makes a sizable contribution towards the midterm gap, with the presidential penalty playing the largest role.

Suggested Citation

  • Knight, Brian, 2017. "An Econometric Evaluation of Competing Explanations for the Midterm Gap," Quarterly Journal of Political Science, now publishers, vol. 12(2), pages 205-239, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:now:jlqjps:100.00015008
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    File URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1561/100.00015008
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Geoffrey Brennan & Alan Hamlin, 1998. "Expressive voting and electoral equilibrium," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 95(1), pages 149-175, April.
    2. Alesina, Alberto & Rosenthal, Howard, 1996. "A Theory of Divided Government," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 64(6), pages 1311-1341, November.
    3. repec:cup:apsrev:v:94:y:2000:i:01:p:37-57_22 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Arianna Degan & Antonio Merlo, 2011. "A Structural Model Of Turnout And Voting In Multiple Elections," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 9(2), pages 209-245, April.
    5. Steven D. Levitt, 1994. "An Empirical Test Of Competing Explanations For The Midterm Gap In The U.S. House," Economics and Politics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 6(1), pages 25-37, March.
    6. repec:cup:apsrev:v:83:y:1989:i:02:p:373-398_08 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. Rosenthal, Howard & Alesina, Alberto, 1989. "Partisan Cycles in Congressional Elections and the Macroeconomy," Scholarly Articles 4553031, Harvard University Department of Economics.
    8. repec:hrv:faseco:34222831 is not listed on IDEAS
    9. Scheve, Kenneth & Tomz, Michael, 1999. "Electoral Surprise and the Midterm Loss in US Congressional Elections," British Journal of Political Science, Cambridge University Press, vol. 29(03), pages 507-521, June.
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    Cited by:

    1. Gebhard Kirchgässner, 2016. "Voting and Popularity," CESifo Working Paper Series 6182, CESifo Group Munich.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Midterm gap; Voting behavior; Presidential politics; Congress;

    JEL classification:

    • D7 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making

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