By the numbers: what we’ve learned from the 2022 US midterm elections

Votes are still being counted in the United States after Tuesday’s midterm elections, and we don’t know which party will control the House of Representatives after Democrats plan to hold the Senate on Saturday night.

But it’s clear Democrats have rebuffed an anticipated ‘red wave’ of Republican wins in statewide and federal races as they were bolstered by underperforming Trump-backed candidates, targeted spending on key races and a diverse support base. The Democratic losses at the federal level are historically small for the party of a sitting president facing his first half term. And at the state level, the party has recorded gains in legislatures and governorates.

Demographics and money played a key role, as did the divide between urban and rural America, revealing the suburbs to be the most important political battleground. And the American people weighed in directly on some pressing issues of the day, including abortion rights, drug legalization and the election itself.

Here are seven takeaways from the midterm elections that have yet to be resolved.

Republicans are on track to take the House, but a ‘red wave’ hasn’t peaked

While statistical models and experts predicted dozens of losses for Democrats, House scrutiny remains up in the air. Republicans have won or currently lead 221 seats, which would be enough for a narrow three-seat majority. If that margin materialized, it would represent a loss of just six seats for the Democrats.

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That’s unusual for a midterm election, which is typically characterized by double-digit seat losses for the incumbent’s party. It’s even more surprising given Biden’s failing approval rating. In the past 50 years, only three midterm elections have gone better for incumbent presidents in the House — 1986, 1998, and 2002. All three of those races have featured presidents with approval ratings approaching 60 percent, while Biden is currently in his 40s.

Democrats have performed well at the state level

While there are still races to be called, it’s clear that Democrats have won important victories in state races, retaining and toppling competitive legislatures and governors. Control of the offices of governors and state legislatures influences the ease with which a party can implement policy, including on issues such as abortion, gun control, and schooling.

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Democrats have so far maintained control of all state chambers where they previously held a majority, the first to occur under an incumbent president since 1934, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Democrats also flipped four Republican-held state legislatures and two Republican-held governorships.

In total, Democrats added four states to their list of “trifectas” – places where a single party sits in the governor’s chair and controls both legislative houses. Democrats lost a trifecta after Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak lost his re-election bid in Nevada, the first incumbent governor to lose a race in this election. While the GOP hasn’t recorded any flips in state chambers or new trifectas, Republicans still hold 16 more state chambers and have full control of five more states than Democrats.

Trump endorsers made it “BIG”, but . ..

Former President Donald Trump dominated the election proceedings this week, having endorsed dozens of candidates for congressional seats and also battling with a possible future presidential campaign challenger, Ron DeSantis, who won re-election in as Governor of Florida.

Trump touted his endorsers’ (and his) winning record with a signature social media caption: “A GREAT NIGHT, and the Fake News Media, along with their partner in crime, the Democrats, are going all out to minimize it.

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Indeed, most Trump-backed candidates won — but a winning record was no surprise given most Trump-backed candidates ran in solidly Republican districts. But those in more competitive districts and tighter races have faltered. Of the six candidates endorsed by Trump in Democratic-leaning or sweepstakes House races, none have won, according to a tally by Politico. In the Senate, one of four Trump endorsers has won while another heads for a runoff.

The suburbs are the real political battleground

With a few races left to call, it looks like Republicans will hold 92% of all rural seats (as ranked by a Washington Post census analysis). Meanwhile, Democrats are on track to concurrently hold 92% of districts in urban areas. A single Republican, on Staten Island in New York, will represent an all-urban district.

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This would represent a Congress even more polarized by district density than the current one, though an exact comparison would be confused by the freshly drawn districts of this cycle. This continuation of a trend that has lasted for years has increasingly turned suburban areas into battlegrounds for majority control. If Republicans form a narrow majority in the House, as expected, it appears to be largely driven by their dominance in rural and suburban areas.

A young and diverse coalition of voters secured Democrat victories

Young voters received a flurry of thank you messages from Democrats — including President Joe Biden — for showing up to the polls and helping the party survive tough midterms. More than a quarter of 18- to 29-year-olds voted in that election, the second-highest turnout on record for a midterm election, according to analysis of polling data from Tufts University.

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While the youth vote helped give Democrats an edge in competitive races, black voters also overwhelmingly showed up for Democratic candidates. Latino voters also tended to support Democrats, but preferred some Republicans in states like Florida and Ohio.

In the tight Senate race in Pennsylvania, more than 85% of black voters voted for Democratic nominee John Fetterman, compared to less than half of white voters, according to data from an AP VoteCast survey. Fetterman picked up a surprising victory over Republican challenger Mehmet Oz.

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College-educated women also strongly favored Democrats in battleground states. 66% of female college graduates polled backed Democrat Josh Shapiro in the Pennsylvania gubernatorial race, compared with just 32% who chose his Republican opponent, Doug Mastriano. Shapiro won this race by a margin of around 14 points.

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Record spending tips the scales in tight Senate races

This midterm election cycle has been the most expensive on record, with political spending across all federal and state races expected to top $16.7 billion, according to OpenSecrets estimates.

Pro-GOP outside groups, like Super Pacs and Hybrid Pacs, have spent nearly $1.1 billion on federal contests this cycle, about 50% more than pro-Democratic groups. About half of that massive sum came from just 10 Republican donors, including $77 million from shipping magnate Richard Uihlein and $67 million from Citadel CEO Ken Griffin.

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That Republican edge appeared to boost candidates in tight Senate races in Wisconsin, Ohio and North Carolina, where Republicans beat their Democratic opponents. In the Pennsylvania Senate race, the most expensive of the cycle, Democrats emerged victorious with the help of more than $132 million in outside spending supporting Senator-elect John Fetterman.

Election measures painted a mixed picture of preferences

It wasn’t just politicians on Tuesday’s ballot – it was politicians too. There were 133 ballot measures to be considered across the country, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, including measures on abortion rights, drug policy, gambling and the vote itself. . Here is a small sampling of some of the questions and answers provided by voters.

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Voters have taken a stand in a number of states to enshrine reproductive rights or reject restrictions on abortion. Marijuana or cannabis legalization has passed in some states but failed in others — Colorado, meanwhile, voted to decriminalize some psychedelics. Sports betting legalization has failed in California, although it has spread rapidly to many other states in recent years. And while some states have moved to require a voter ID card, for example, other states have established expanded access to voting.

Additional work of Olivier Hawkins

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