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The Presidential Surge and its Midterm Decline in Congressional Elections, 1868-1988

James E. Campbell
The Journal of Politics
Vol. 53, No. 2 (May, 1991), pp. 477-487
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2131768
Page Count: 11
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
The Presidential Surge and its Midterm Decline in Congressional Elections, 1868-1988
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Abstract

This note examines the effects of presidential elections on congressional elections. Nationally aggregated congressional seat and vote change data for the 61 congressional elections held in presidential and midterm election years from 1868 to 1988 are examined in a single-equation model. The results indicate strong presidential "surge and decline" effects. In presidential election years, a party's presidential vote positively affects its congressional election results--the presidential surge. In the following midterm elections, the president's party loses the advantage of the presidential surge and, as a consequence, also loses congressional votes and seats. These midterm losses of congressional seats and votes for the president's party are in proportion to the party's prior presidential vote margin. Presidential surge and decline effects, however, do not entirely explain vote and seat losses by the president's party in midterms. In addition to suffering vote and seat losses because of the absence of presidential coattail or surge help, it appears that the president's party also sustains midterm losses because of the public's evaluation of the incumbent administration at the midterm.

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