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Question on US House Elections


dgl

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Joined
Apr 27, 2007
Messages
783
Can someone explain why the US house of representatives seat share is so different from the presidential vote share?

eg in Ohio Obama got 50.1% but the Democrats won only 4 of 16 house seats?

I was under the impression the house seats were elected on a first past the post system from single seat constituencies / districts.

However if this is the case, and if party votes mirror the presidential vote, it's hard to see how the Democrats would get just 25% of seats.

I also understand there's a fair bit of gerrymandering in electoral districts, but surely that can't explain such a large effect?
 


NYCKY

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Your question is interesting and an answer requires some discussion. For instance Ohio has a Republican Governor, Two Republican Senators and prior to the election it had a Congressional delegation split of 13 Reps and 5 Democrats. With redistricting the Congressional delegation fell to 16 and each party lost a seat to leave a split of 12 Reps and 4 Dems. Looking at this its easy to wonder how Obama won the state albeit narrowly.

The seats are elected on a first past the post system and yes there is some gerrymandering but....

there are a number of reasons including demographics, ticket splitting and campaigning. Ticket splitting is common in most states and only rare in deep red states like Utah or deep blue states like Vermont where voters typcially vote "down the line" for one party. Some of the ticket splitting is due to party candidates on a local level, eg I like my local Congressman because he/she fought to keep the local factory/hospital open but I like the candidate for President because he/she is tougher on gun control/is more pro life etc. Voters often separate the issues and split their votes.

The issue of demographics is crucial and this is why Ohio is long time swing state. I noted in a different thread that Ohio is in many ways a microcosm of the USA itself, its Northern part is in the Rust belt, its Southern part touches on the Bible belt and it has a few mid size cities like Cleveland, Cincinatti and Toledo and in between those cities you have the gun owners/hunters. Additionally, its population of over 11 million ranks the state in the top 10. (Incidentally it is for these reasons that Ohio is frequently chosen for market research and for testing new products before introduction to the rest of the US).

Because of the states, swing state nature, voters get bombarded with advertising on the radio, the TV, Internet, billboards etc as well as a swarm of campaign visits so the voters get a good idea of what the candidates are about.

When Obama won here in 2008, only one Senate seat was Republican and a Democrat was Governor, so the make up of the delegation does change around in the state.
 

Joseph Emmet

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311
In addition if you look at say Ohio Most of the state by area is rural and red while the concentrated urban areas are blue. The way districts boundaries are drawn by the "majority" is to make as many safe districts as possible. So in the urban areas the boundaries safe districts are ridicules looking leaving true Opposition districts and a very few contested ones. At the same time these kind of boundaries are much harder to draw because of the greater rural areas. Remember one must keep the districts equal in population. An urban area like Cleveland might have 8 districts 5 safe for dems, thus 2 safe for rep and i contested,yet in the rest of the state only one of which is safe for the dems and the rest are contested or repub controlled. You could end up with 7 safe dem districts and 9 going rep.
 

Analyzer

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Feb 14, 2011
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46,187
Can someone explain why the US house of representatives seat share is so different from the presidential vote share?

Very simple explanation.

Romney was an even bigger fake than ShowBama.

Of course, we cannot expect the US media to tell us the truth in this regard, when there are two Wall Street supportive candidates available for election.
 

dgl

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Joined
Apr 27, 2007
Messages
783
Your question is interesting and an answer requires some discussion. For instance Ohio has a Republican Governor, Two Republican Senators and prior to the election it had a Congressional delegation split of 13 Reps and 5 Democrats. With redistricting the Congressional delegation fell to 16 and each party lost a seat to leave a split of 12 Reps and 4 Dems. Looking at this its easy to wonder how Obama won the state albeit narrowly.

The seats are elected on a first past the post system and yes there is some gerrymandering but....

there are a number of reasons including demographics, ticket splitting and campaigning. Ticket splitting is common in most states and only rare in deep red states like Utah or deep blue states like Vermont where voters typcially vote "down the line" for one party. Some of the ticket splitting is due to party candidates on a local level, eg I like my local Congressman because he/she fought to keep the local factory/hospital open but I like the candidate for President because he/she is tougher on gun control/is more pro life etc. Voters often separate the issues and split their votes.

The issue of demographics is crucial and this is why Ohio is long time swing state. I noted in a different thread that Ohio is in many ways a microcosm of the USA itself, its Northern part is in the Rust belt, its Southern part touches on the Bible belt and it has a few mid size cities like Cleveland, Cincinatti and Toledo and in between those cities you have the gun owners/hunters. Additionally, its population of over 11 million ranks the state in the top 10. (Incidentally it is for these reasons that Ohio is frequently chosen for market research and for testing new products before introduction to the rest of the US).

Because of the states, swing state nature, voters get bombarded with advertising on the radio, the TV, Internet, billboards etc as well as a swarm of campaign visits so the voters get a good idea of what the candidates are about.

When Obama won here in 2008, only one Senate seat was Republican and a Democrat was Governor, so the make up of the delegation does change around in the state.
Thanks for the detailed answer.

In essence the one extra factor you've added is "ticket splitting", and I accept that this will occur. However, in the Ohio example, most of the ticket splitting must have been In favour of the Republicans to give a 75%:25% split of seats - when the presidential vote was almost exactly 50%:50%.

Perhaps the non-aligned voters who vote Democrat for president tend (on average) to vote Republican for congress in the interest of some kind of balanced vote? It might all be a bit academic if it weren't for the fact that the aggregate result is gridlock, a major weakness in the US system IMHO.

As for the senate, it's a bit of a joke that parties effectively seem to need a super majority of 60:40 to get anything through...but that's a whole other discussion...
 

dgl

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Messages
783
In addition if you look at say Ohio Most of the state by area is rural and red while the concentrated urban areas are blue. The way districts boundaries are drawn by the "majority" is to make as many safe districts as possible. So in the urban areas the boundaries safe districts are ridicules looking leaving true Opposition districts and a very few contested ones. At the same time these kind of boundaries are much harder to draw because of the greater rural areas. Remember one must keep the districts equal in population. An urban area like Cleveland might have 8 districts 5 safe for dems, thus 2 safe for rep and i contested,yet in the rest of the state only one of which is safe for the dems and the rest are contested or repub controlled. You could end up with 7 safe dem districts and 9 going rep.
Thanks also for your answer.

I notice you are US based. In Ireland we used to have a situation where the majority set the district boundaries and tried to create safe seats. However for a few decades now there's been an independent commission so as to avoid gerrymandering. Is there any pressure for change in this area in the US?
 

dgl

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Joined
Apr 27, 2007
Messages
783
Can someone explain why the US house of representatives seat share is so different from the presidential vote share?

Very simple explanation.

Romney was an even bigger fake than ShowBama.

Of course, we cannot expect the US media to tell us the truth in this regard, when there are two Wall Street supportive candidates available for election.
Pointless, irrelevant and incomprehensible response to a technical question :)
 

owedtojoy

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Joined
Feb 27, 2010
Messages
46,038
Can someone explain why the US house of representatives seat share is so different from the presidential vote share?

Very simple explanation.

Romney was an even bigger fake than ShowBama.

Of course, we cannot expect the US media to tell us the truth in this regard, when there are two Wall Street supportive candidates available for election.
Definite smell of sour grapes from a bad loser.
 

wombat

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Joined
Jun 16, 2007
Messages
32,432
Thanks for the detailed answer.

In essence the one extra factor you've added is "ticket splitting", and I accept that this will occur. However, in the Ohio example, most of the ticket splitting must have been In favour of the Republicans to give a 75%:25% split of seats - when the presidential vote was almost exactly 50%:50%..
If you were an auto worker supplying parts to GM, you might favour the bailout while wanting your taxes cut - we are not the only ones who think of our pockets at election time:lol:
 

dgl

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Joined
Apr 27, 2007
Messages
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If you were an auto worker supplying parts to GM, you might favour the bailout while wanting your taxes cut - we are not the only ones who think of our pockets at election time:lol:
Electoral cognitive dissonance...
 

Dame_Enda

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Ticket-splitting snd gerrymandering/redistricting, and the fact that at state level, the local Dem/GOP party is sometimes more moderate/ideological than the national party. For example, in the South, the Dems tend to be more pro-life, pro-gun and anti gay marriage. In the Northeast, the GOP includes some who are pro gay rights, less pro-gun and more pro-immigration.
 
Last edited:

CptSternn

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Joined
May 4, 2010
Messages
3,949
Can someone explain why the US house of representatives seat share is so different from the presidential vote share?

eg in Ohio Obama got 50.1% but the Democrats won only 4 of 16 house seats?

I was under the impression the house seats were elected on a first past the post system from single seat constituencies / districts.

However if this is the case, and if party votes mirror the presidential vote, it's hard to see how the Democrats would get just 25% of seats.

I also understand there's a fair bit of gerrymandering in electoral districts, but surely that can't explain such a large effect?

Here is the answer in a much easier way to understand -

House seats come from small districts. To put it in a way you might be able to easily understand think of it like villages in a county.

See each disctrict (or village here) would elect a member to the House, where as the whole county votes to elect Senators and the President. So even though the county might elect all Democratic Senators and be for a Democratic President, you would still have a village or two that would vote all Republican and have a Republican Representative in the House.

That a bit more clear? Forget that split ticket stuff and everything else they are saying, the reality is House Reps come from small districts, and some of the towns/villages/areas where they come from are small pockets of different supporters than the rest of the state.
 

True Republican

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Joined
Apr 3, 2008
Messages
4,067
If you were an auto worker supplying parts to GM, you might favour the bailout while wanting your taxes cut - we are not the only ones who think of our pockets at election time:lol:
So people who worked in the auto industry or have jobs linked to the auto industry in Ohio were likely to vote for a GOP candidate for congress but voted Obama for president.
 

dgl

Well-known member
Joined
Apr 27, 2007
Messages
783
Here is the answer in a much easier way to understand -

House seats come from small districts. To put it in a way you might be able to easily understand think of it like villages in a county.

See each disctrict (or village here) would elect a member to the House, where as the whole county votes to elect Senators and the President. So even though the county might elect all Democratic Senators and be for a Democratic President, you would still have a village or two that would vote all Republican and have a Republican Representative in the House.

That a bit more clear? Forget that split ticket stuff and everything else they are saying, the reality is House Reps come from small districts, and some of the towns/villages/areas where they come from are small pockets of different supporters than the rest of the state.
I understand all of that, but the population must by VERY polarised geographically for that alone to explain a party with 50% support getting 25% of seats!

FPTP is flawed but if that happened in the UK there'd be uproar!
 
Last edited:

NYCKY

Moderator
Joined
Apr 17, 2010
Messages
13,111
Here is the answer in a much easier way to understand -

House seats come from small districts. To put it in a way you might be able to easily understand think of it like villages in a county.

See each disctrict (or village here) would elect a member to the House, where as the whole county votes to elect Senators and the President. So even though the county might elect all Democratic Senators and be for a Democratic President, you would still have a village or two that would vote all Republican and have a Republican Representative in the House.

That a bit more clear? Forget that split ticket stuff and everything else they are saying, the reality is House Reps come from small districts, and some of the towns/villages/areas where they come from are small pockets of different supporters than the rest of the state.

That's not entirely accurate at all. Some of the Congressional districts particularly in the Western half of the country. The whole state of Alaska is a single congressional district (district at large) as are the large states of Montana, Wyoming, North and South Dakota.

Some of them are small, like a big city might have a few districts in its border but to suggest that Congressional districts are all small is wrong. They are all based on population and each one is approximately 700,000 residents.
 

NYCKY

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Joined
Apr 17, 2010
Messages
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I understand all of that, but the population must by VERY polarised geographically for that alone to explain a party with 50% support getting 25% of seats!

FPTP is flawed but if that happened in the UK there'd be uproar!

It wasn't just Ohio, it happened on a national level. Obama won the Presidential election but the Republicans retained control of the House of which every seat was up for election.
 

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