Four Factors That Could Scramble the 2022 Mid-Term Elections

If you think Democrats are due for a shellacking, here’s why you could be wrong.

Micah Sifry
5 min readMar 25, 2022

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The 2022 mid-term elections for Congress will be pivotal for America. If history is any guide, the Biden White House will lose control of the House of Representatives and possibly also the Senate. The mid-term electorate almost always is made up of more voters who fear the power of the party that controls the White House than those who support it. Current polls show that people who identify as Republicans are strongly motivated to vote this fall, while many Democrats — especially younger voters — are unenthusiastic, choosing to focus on the things Democrats promised but failed to deliver. The only times in recent history when this general tendency failed to hold was in 2002, when President George W. Bush’s Republicans gained 8 seats in the House and 2 in the Senate, and in 1998, when President Bill Clinton’s Democrats gained 5 in the House. Bush benefited from his post 9–11 bump in popularity and his drive to war with Iraq (sadly); Clinton benefited from the public’s greater dislike of Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich and his drive to impeach the president for his affair with Monica Lewinsky.

History is only a guide, not a guarantee. And as the 1998 and 2002 midterms show, sometimes current events cause voters to prioritize different things and opt to support the party in power in the White House. As the fall elections approach, there are four new variables that may scramble expectations of a Democratic wipe-out.

First, the electorate is always changing. Older people die, leaving the voter rolls; young people and newly naturalized citizens register, joining the rolls. People also move, something that’s especially scrambled more this cycle (more on that below). On top of that, there’s been a surge of millions of new voters since 2016. One of the positive effects of hyper-polarization is that a lot more people are motivated to vote on both sides. Overall voter turnout in the 2018 mid-terms and 2020 presidential reached levels not seen since 1914 and 1900, respectively. This could help Democrats hold onto Congress, since so many of these new voters leaned their way. In 2018, 25 million people who had not voted in 2014 turned out and voted for House Democrats. 26 million people who had not voted in 2016 voted for Biden in 2020.

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