Home General Only Four U.S. House Elections in the Last Hundred Years Gave One Party a House Majority, Even Though the Other Major Party Polled More Votes for U.S. House
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Only Four U.S. House Elections in the Last Hundred Years Gave One Party a House Majority, Even Though the Other Major Party Polled More Votes for U.S. House

Published on November 12, 2012, by in General.

Some analysts have already looked at the U.S. House elections from last week’s election, and determined that Democratic candidates received more popular votes than Republican candidates. Yet, it appears most likely that Republicans won 235 seats and Democrats only won 200 seats. There are still six seats in which the results aren’t final, but Democrats are leading in five of them, so it has been assumed that those candidates who are currently leading will win.

Prior to 2012, there have been only three other congressional elections in the last hundred years in which one major party won more popular votes for U.S. House, yet the other major party won more seats. They were 1914, 1942, and 1952.

In 1914, Republicans won 5,871,614 popular votes to Democrats’ 5,793,581. But Democrats won 231 seats, Republicans won 193 seats, and minor parties won 11 seats.

In 1942, Republicans won 14,256,160 popular votes to Democrats’ 13,014,467. But Democrats won 222 seats, Republicans won 209 seats, and minor parties won 4 seats.

In 1952, Democrats won 28,693,013 popular votes to Republicans’ 28,413,596. But Republicans won 221 seats, Democrats won 213, and one independent won.

Data on the number of seats won is from the Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives, and from reference books written by Professor Ken Martis, and also the various authors of America Votes, including Rhodes Cook. Data on the number of popular votes received by each party is from my own research. In states with disaggregated fusion, the figures for major parties do not include the popular votes received on minor party lines in support of major party nominees.

17 Responses

  1. Marcus

    Doesn’t that automatically exclude a lot of votes from NY state?

  2. Curt Boyd

    PA is probably one of the states where the difference is. Philadelphia & Pittsburgh most likely voted heavily Democratic, but a majority of the representatives are Republican.

    Top two could have an impact on turnout, and district gerrymandering in PA, and probably other states could have an impact as well.

  3. Walter Ziobro

    What was the impact of votes for minor party candidates?

  4. The mainstream media understand partisan gerrymandering, so the pundits blame these wrong winner elections on that. Gerrymandering is indeed part of it. But winner-take-all election rules play a larger role than gerrymandering. Good luck finding that essential point in the MSM.

  5. Demo Rep

    Hmmm.
    1914 – during WW I
    1942 – during WW II
    1952 – during the Korean *War*
    —-
    How about the gerrymander math results in many houses of many State legislatures ???
    ——
    P.R. and nonpartisan App.V.
    Uniform definition of Elector in ALL of the U.S.A — as being a basic condition in BEING in the *United* States of America.

    Abolish the gerrymander Senate and Electoral College – both due to the EVIL small and slave States conspiracy in the top secret 1787 Fed. Convention.

  6. Karel Rei

    Gerrymandering is such an old corruption that surely it should have been fixed by now. Or we live in a creepy country.

  7. treelimb

    And thus, we do not have representation in the House. Truly a BFD, and needs a lot of press. House representation is a fraud, and we have lost our rights.

  8. #5, good point. The 1942 election had terrible turnout because back then most states required voters to have lived in the state an entire year before registering to vote in that state. Hundreds of thousands of American adults moved from one state to another in 1942, so they couldn’t vote. They were moving to states with shipyards and factories that were producing tanks and guns. Also perhaps a million or more Americans of voting age had gone to another state for military training, or overseas (these were mostly males, of course). So if more people had been able to vote in 1942, chances are the results would have been different.

  9. Be Rational

    #4 is correct. This is more a result of having electoral districts of any kind than from gerrymandering. Only perfect, nationwide proportional representation could alleviate this largely irrelevant statistical trivia – and that will never happen ever in the US.

  10. Larry West

    In the Kentucky House of Representatives, it is the reverse. The votes were:
    Republicans: 792,966
    Democrats: 738,558
    Others: 16,811
    Yet the results were 55 Democrats won, and 45 Republicans (although in one district only 5 votes separates the R from the D).

  11. Worth noting: the three previous instances were all pre-Civil Rights, one party segregated South era.

  12. Richard Winger

    #3, in the 1930 election, even though more Republicans were elected than Democrats, the minor party members voted for a Democrat for speaker, so we got a Democratic speaker. It is somewhat analogous to the last British parliamentary election.

  13. Demo Rep

    Earlier many folks thought that so-called divine right of kings would be in force forever.

    Once upon a time certain tyrant gangsters thought that slavery would never be abolished in the slave States.

    Stuff happened.

    See events like the American Revolutionary WAR, the 1789 French Revolution and World War I — de facto wipeout of the Brit, French, German, Austro-Hungarian, Russian and Ottoman empires.

    Even the rise of the Elephant Party when it had some principles in 1854-1860 resulting in the very hard way (about 750,000 DEAD Americans) to get the 13th-14th-15th Amdts in 1865-1870.

    The EVIL ANTI-Democracy gerrymander is the EVIL tool of EVIL monsters — due in part to the EVIL robot party hacks in SCOTUS.

    # 8 The U.S.A. military went up to about 12 MILLION folks with probably another 30 million moving around for work in defense factories – result – destruction of the EVIL Axis monarchs / oligarchs in 1942-1945.

    i.e. MAJOR mobilization during 1942 — putting an end to the 1929-1941 Great Depression with its gerrymanders.

    P.R. and nonpartisan App.V. — before it is too late.

  14. Walter Ziobro

    It’s not conceivable that a constitutional amendment could be passed establishing nation-wide proportional representation, or even nation-wide redistricting; the wrangling would be impossible to overcome. What is more reasonable is to find some state with multiple Congressional representatives, and an evenly split (D/R) legislature that can’t agree on redistricting to try proportional representation, or at-large cumulative voting.

  15. Jim Riley

    It quite likely that this was due to David Axelrod’s campaign strategy and President Obama’s ego.

    If you need more votes in Florida, Ohio, Virginia, Pennsylvania, etc. You go to places like Philadelphia and Cleveland, and get every voter that you can to the polls.

    If representatives were apportioned based on votes cast, Florida (+3), North Carolina (+3), Virginia (+2), Ohio (+3), Iowa (+2), Wisconsin (+1), New Hampshire (+1), Colorado (+2), Pennsylvania (+2) would have gained representation.

    Southern states with significant Black populations, such as Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and South Carolina had a larger share of the popular vote than they have of the national population, something that is more typical of a state touching Canada.

    If the Obama campaign had identified an Obama supporter in Utah, he had already voted. If there are voters in Utah who would vote for Obama if you managed to get him to the polls, you may not have identified them, or it is not worth the effort since you aren’t going to carry Utah.

    You end up pushing up the congressional vote totals in districts where it won’t do you any good, and losing congressional districts that you might have won.

    The Obama campaign focused on personalities rather than issues, which is understandable given the 8% unemployment race. In swing states, the ads were very negative focused on Romney. But this doesn’t necessarily translate into a vote for the Democratic congressional candidate. So there was ticket splitting, and this appears to have been more significant in competitive districts.

    Obama and Democrats generally did better among single persons vs. married persons. Married persons have more children. Children are included in determining congressional district boundaries, but don’t vote.

  16. james?

    the weird thing is that only senate, presidential, and elections for governers are exempt from gerry mandering as state borders do not change.
    i had heard that arizonia was a model of best practice in the way it draws up its electoral boundaries? any one know any thing? it would be easier if you could say we only want what arizonias got?

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