FixGovWhy did home Democrats underperform contrasted to Joe Biden?William A. GalstonMonday, December 21, 2020
The outcomes of the 2020 vote pose numerous puzzles, one of which is the gap between Joe Biden’s handsome victory in the presidential race and the Democrats’ disappointing performance in the home of Representatives. Biden took pleasure in an edge of 7.1 million votes (4.5%) over President Trump, when the Democrats experienced a lose of 13 seats in the House, reducing your margin native 36 to just 10.

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What happened? two explanations stand out. First, 2018 to be such a solid year for residence Democrats the they would have been hard-pressed to equal it in 2020, unless Republicans had stayed house in droves and also Joe Biden had won the presidential choice in a landslide. Second, much more Democrats 보다 Republicans who voted in the presidential dispute failed to vote for their party’s candidate, reducing their possibilities of prevailing in close races. And also as always, the inefficient geographical distribution of democratic voters hampered the party’s initiative to obtain ground.

Turnout in the 2018 mid-term election got to its greatest level in an ext than a century. Democrats to be fervently opposed to the Trump administration and turned out in droves. Contrasted to its performance in 2016, the party’s full House vote fell by just 2%. Without Donald Trump at the head that the ticket, Republican voter were much less enthusiastic, and the complete House poll for Republican candidates dropped by nearly 20% indigenous 2016. Democratic candidates received virtually 10 million much more votes than Republican candidates, a margin that 8.6%, the highest ever before for a party the was formerly in the minority. The was, in short, a spectacular year for residence Democrats.

Against this backdrop, autonomous leaders’ expectations of extr gains in 2020 rest on improbable assumptions. Through President Trump in ~ the height of the ticket, Republican turnout for house races was bound come increase substantially over the depressed levels of 2018. Return Democrats raised their complete House votes by an estimated 16.8 million over 2018, republicans did better, gaining an estimated 21.9 million. The Democrats’ renowned vote margin in home races fell by much more than half, from 8.6% come an approximated 3%. Offered these results, democracy did well to hold their seat loss to 13.

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

To know the difference this autonomous disadvantage can make, to compare the 2020 presidential and also House outcomes in five vital swing states.

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


ArizonaGeorgiaMichiganPennsylvaniaWisconsin
Democratic House1,6292,3932,6893,3471,567
Democratic Pres.1,6722,4742,8043,4601,610
Democratic residence 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, residence Democrats ran fine behind Joe Biden. Through contrast, house Republicans ran front of chairman Trump in three of the five, and also their shortfall was less than the democrats in the continuing to be two. If trumped had gained as countless votes in Georgia as his party’s home candidates, that would have actually won the race by 16,000 votes fairly than losing it by 12,000.

In addition to this two brand-new explanations because that the home results, over there is a more familiar factor—namely, the inefficient distribution of democratic votes.

Table 2: challenged versus uncontested residence races


 DemocratsRepublicans
Total residence votes (millions)77.472.8
Total home votes in uncontested races (millions)5.02.1
Total seats won in uncontested races198
Total home votes in contested races72.470.7
Total seats won in disputed races203204

As Table 2 indicates, much more than 60% that the Democrats’ 4.6 million vote benefit in home votes is attributable to your 2.9 million poll edge in simply 27 uncontested races, of i beg your pardon Democrats won 19. Democrats delighted in an benefit of just 1.7 million votes (about 1%) in the 408 disputed races, which the next split almost evenly (one race stays undetermined). The Republicans winner the mass of the contests resolved by much less than 2 portion points, including most of the races in which manage shifted between the parties.


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

At this point, we perform not recognize why so many Biden voter behaved in this way. Some may have actually been republicans who might no much longer stomach president Trump but could not support the autonomous Party’s agenda and wanted to counterbalance the new administration. Rather may have been marginal democracy who carry out not follow national politics or poll regularly and also were brought to the polling-booth just by your antipathy come the president. Democrats in conference districts wherein the party’s candidates ran uncontested races may have actually voted because that Biden and also stopped there due to the fact that they knew their vote for home candidates make no difference. No doubt there are various other hypotheses.

One thing is clear: autonomous strategists would certainly be well-advised to get to the bottom the this puzzle, which virtually cost the party its control of the residence in a year once its leaders were expecting to broaden their majority—and would have done for this reason if more of Biden’s voters had supported the party’s home candidates.

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Acknowledgments:

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