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Midterm Election Results Though History

Midterm Election Results From 1934 through 2014

Midterm elections are congressional elections that are held in the second year of a president's four-year term and typically serve as a barometer of the majority party's popularity among the electorate.

What Happens in a Midterm Election?

In the United States, voters typically express dissatisfaction with the president's party and remove some of his senators and members of the House of Representatives.

Related Story: Why Presidents Can Serve Only Two Terms

Midterm elections provide a check on the president's power and give power to the electorate. But they have also been criticized for allegedly creating gridlock in the American political system.

Wrote Yascha Mounk on Quartz.com:

"Midterms tend to foster short-term thinking - but only because voters tend to punish or reward politicians for such factors as the state of the economy. Midterms focus the minds of politicians on campaigns - but only because voters reward their representatives for taking the time to talk to them. And midterms tend to create political gridlock - but only because voters are often disappointed with their political leaders, choosing to limit their powers when they get the chance.

What Are the Procedures for midterm Elections in the United States?

Midterm elections are held two years after a Presidential election; one-third of the Senate and all 435 seats in the House of Representatives are at stake. Conventional wisdom holds that the President's party will lose seats during a midterm election.

In the 21 midterm elections held since 1934, only twice has the president's party gained seats in both the Senate and the House: Franklin Delano Roosevelt's first midterm election and George W. Bush's first midterm election. On three other occasions, the President's party gained House seats and once it was a draw. On one occasion, the president's party gained Senate seats.

If a President serves two terms, generally speaking the greater loss occurs during his first midterm election. Notable exceptions, again: FDR and GWB.

What Other Countries Use midterm Elections?

The United States is not the only country that holds midterm elections. Argentina, Liberia, Mexico, Pakistan, the Philippines, India and Nepal also hold midterm elections.

Chart of Seats Won and Lost During midterm Elections

This chart shows the number of seats in the House of Representatives and U.S. Senate that the president's party won or lost during midterm elections dating back to Franklin D. Roosevelt. Note: The source of this information is the The American Presidency Project.

Year President Party President Approval Rating - Late October House Senate
1934 Franklin D. Roosevelt D nd +9 +9
1938 Franklin D. Roosevelt D 60% -71 -6
1942 Franklin D. Roosevelt D nd -55 -9
1946 Harry S. Truman D 27% -45 -12
1950 Harry S. Truman D 41% -29 -6
1954 Dwight D. Eisenhower R nd -18 -1
1958 Dwight D. Eisenhower R nd -48 -13
1962 John F. Kennedy D 61% -4 +3
1966 Lyndon B. Johnson D 44% -47 -4
1970 Richard Nixon R nd -12 +2
1974 Gerald R. Ford R nd -48 -5
1978 Jimmy Carter D 49% -15 -3
1982 Ronald Reagan R 42% -26 +1
1986 Ronald Reagan R nd -5 -8
1990 George Bush R 57% -8 -1
1994 William J. Clinton D 48% -52 -8
1998 William J. Clinton D 65% +5 0
2002 George W. Bush R 67% +8 +2
2006 George W. Bush R 37% -30 -6
2010 Barack Obama D 45% -63 -6
2014 Barack Obama D 41% -13 -9

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