The Democrats can smile

By , Louis H. Bean is an economist and statistician.

If you are neither a Reaganite convinced that Republicans will gain enough seats in the 1982 elections to control both House and Senate nor a strong Democrat like congressman Morris Udall who feels sure the Democrats will gain 15 additional House seats, what do you say if you are asked to guess the outcome of next year's congressional races? Assuming at this early stage that you are not professionally equipped to appraise the political balances district by district, let me suggest a basis for forming a preliminary judgment as to whether to expect a net Republican or a net Democratic gain in House seats. The basis, while strictly historical and apparently not widely known, is a good starting point.

In the last 100 years we have had 14 congressional elections following Republican presidential victories and we have had 12 congressional elections following Democratic presidential victories.

Here is the striking record of Democratic gains and losses in the congressional elections following Democratic presidential elections. Beginning with 1886 we have had 12 Democratic presidential elections and in all but one instance Democrats showed net losses in the following congressional elections. The one exception was in 1934, following the sweeping Franklin Roosevelt victory in 1932. The deep business depression of 1932 carried its political impact over into 1934 and provided the 1934 net Democratic gain in the 1934 congressional races.

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The entire record of Democratic losses and one gain in the congressional races following the election of Democratic presidents is as follows: 1886 -12 1942 -55 1894 -116 1946 -55 1914 -59 1950 -29 1918 -19 1962 -4 1934 9 1966 -47 1938 -7 1978 -15

If you disregard the two extremes, those of 1894 and 1962, typical Democratic losses following Democratic presidential victories range between 15 and 59.

The typical Republican experience in congressional elections following Republican presidential victories matches very closely the Democratic experience. Republicans have also lost House seats in all but one congressional election following Republican presidential victories. The 100-year Republican record shows 14 presidential victories followed by losses in the following congressional elections. The exception was in the 1902 election when Republicans actually lost ground to Democrats who gained 25 seats following the increase in the overall number of representatives after the 1900 census. 1878 -9 1922 -75 1882 -33 1926 -10 1890 -85 1930 -49 1898 -21 1954 -18 1902 9 1958 -48 1906 -29 1970 -12 1910 -57 1974 -4

As the two parties start their efforts to gain or hold their seats in the next Congress, it is of course difficult to predict with certainty a net Republican or a net Democratic gain. But the foregoing record provides a starting point. As usual there will be a smaller turnout in 1982 in line with the usual falling off in the number of voters going to the polls in midterm elections. This suggests that many who voted for President Reagan in 1980 will not be going to the polls next November. This is a strong hint that may be expected to sustain or increase the present number of Democrats in Congress.

In addition, it is necessary to take into account the fair certainty of a higher level of unemployment next fall. Thus fewer voters in 1982 than in 1980 and many more unemployed, as economists now predict with certainty for the months just before the elections, could prove strong trends that favor Democratic candidates next November.

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