Election Day panel predicts midterm results

President’s party has historically lost seats in House, Senate during midterms



Michael Ritter, Travis Ridout and Todd Donovan discuss their midterm predictions, Nov. 8.


As the midterm elections end and results start coming in, an election panel discussed its predictions about which way the results will go at a Foley Talk on Thursday.

In five states, slavery is on the ballots, in which people in prison could work without pay, said Todd Donovan, Western Washington University political science professor. 

“I can’t see any polling on these but we’ll see how that would change how people who are incarcerated have to be paid for labor,” Donovan said. 

Abortion is also on the ballots for six states and could cause more restrictive laws for abortions, he said.  

Historically, the president’s political party loses seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate during the midterms, said Foley Institute Director Cornell Clayton. 

“On average the president’s party has lost 26 seats in the House, four seats in the Senate, and since 2000, [the swings] have gotten even more volatile,” Clayton said. “On average, the president’s party, since 2006, has lost 41 seats in the House and five seats in the Senate.”

Donovan said he expects Democrats to lose 20 seats in the House and four seats in the Senate. He expects Tiffany Smiley to win by 54% as well. 

Travis Ridout, WSU School of Politics, Philosophy, and Public Affairs director, said President Joe Biden won a majority of the House seats in the 2020 elections after winning the national popular vote by 12%. 

One way to think about this election is that Democrats need to win the popular vote for the House by about 4.5% to maintain control, Ridout said. 

“The House generic ballot question shows Republicans winning by about one percentage point. Thus, these generic ballot polls would have to be off by about 5.5%,” he said. “That’s all a bit rough in the pro-Republican direction for Democrats to win the house, and this seems unlikely.”

Looking at the Senate, polls suggest elections can go both ways, and either easily stay in Democratic hands or become a Republican Senate by the start of the new year, Ridout said.

However, this can go back to the question of whether or not people should trust the polls, he said. In 2016, support for former President Donald Trump was understated in the polls. 

“This was attributed to the unwillingness of people with lower education, lower political sophistication to respond to the pollsters,” Ridout said. 

Ridout said he expects a 23-seat Democratic loss in the House and a zero-seat Democratic loss in the Senate. 

He expects Patty Murray to return to the Senate for her sixth term and will win by seven percentage points. For the House race, he expects Joe Kent to win by four points. 

Michael Ritter, WSU American Politics Assistant Professor, said this election will most likely result in a divided government with Congress and the presidency being controlled by different political parties. 

“The key questions, though, regarding this and national level results and how these translate to congressional seats… is whether that divided government will consist of a Republican party that controls both House and Senate or just the House,” Ritter said. 

The United States Elections Project reported a high diversity rate among voters, he said. As of Monday, about 40 million people had cast ballots; 18 million came from in-person early votes and 22 million came from returning a mail ballot. 

“Early statistics suggest the Republican voters are slightly more likely to be in-person early voters and Democratic voters are slightly more likely to be mail voters,” he said. 

Ritter said he expects a loss of 10 Democratic seats in the House and zero in the Senate. He predicts Murray will win by 8.6 percentage points. 

Voting closed at 8 p.m. last night, and results have been updated on major media sites since voting closed on the Eastern side of the country at 5 p.m. Pacific Standard Time. 

The full Election Day Panel stream can be found on the Foley Institute Youtube Channel, and information on upcoming events can be found on the institute’s website.