Midterm elections in the United States are the general elections that are held near the midpoint of a president's four-year term of office. Federal offices that are up for election during the midterms include all 435 seats in the United States House of Representatives, and 33 or 34 of the 100 seats in the United States Senate.
In addition, 34 of the 50 U.S. states elect their governors for four-year terms during midterm elections, while Vermont and New Hampshire elect governors to two-year terms in both midterm and presidential elections. Thus, 36 governors are elected during midterm elections. Many states also elect officers to their state legislatures in midterm years. There are also elections held at the municipal level. On the ballot are many mayors, other local public offices, and a wide variety of citizen initiatives.
Midterm elections historically generate lower voter turnout than presidential elections. While the latter have had turnouts of about 50–60% over the past 60 years, only about 40% of those eligible to vote actually go to the polls in midterm elections. Midterm elections usually see the president's party lose seats in Congress, and also frequently see the president's intraparty opponents gain control of one or both houses of Congress.
Historical record of midterm
Midterm elections are sometimes regarded as a referendum on the sitting president's and/or incumbent party's performance. The party of the incumbent president tends to lose ground during midterm elections: since WWII the President's party has lost an average 26 seats in the House, and an average four seats in the Senate; Moreover, in its entire history of direct public midterm elections, in only seven of those (under presidents Woodrow Wilson, Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Donald Trump) has the President's party gained seats in the House or the Senate and of those only two (1934 Franklin Roosevelt and 2002 George Bush) have seen the President's party gain seats in both houses.
1Party shading shows which party controls chamber after that election.
Comparison with other U.S. general elections
|Senate||Class III (34 seats)||No||Class I (33 seats)||No||Class II (33 seats)|
|House||All 435 seats||No||All 435 seats||No||All 435 seats|
|Gubernatorial||11 states, 2 territories
AS, DE, IN, MO, MT, NH, NC, ND, PR, UT, VT, WA, WV
|36 states, 3 territories
AL, AK, AZ, AR, CA, CO, CT, FL, GA, GU, HI, ID, IL, IA, KS, ME, MP, MD, MA, MI, MN, NE, NV, NH, NM, NY, OH, OK, OR, PA, RI, SC, SD, TN, TX, VI, VT, WI, WY
KY, LA, MS
|11 states, 2 territories |
AS, DE, IN, MO, MT, NH, NC, ND, PR, UT, VT, WA, WV
|Other state and local offices||Varies|
- 1 This table does not include special elections, which may be held to fill political offices that have become vacant between the regularly scheduled elections.
- 2 As well as all six non-voting delegates of the U.S. House.
- 3 As well as five non-voting delegates of the U.S. House. The Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico instead serves a four-year term that coincides with the presidential term.
- 4 The Governors of New Hampshire and Vermont are each elected to two-year terms. The other 48 state governors and all five territorial governors serve four-year terms.
- Gain/loss numbers are for the Pro-Administration faction (1790) and Federalist Party (1794).
- Gain/loss numbers are for the anti-Jacksonian faction.
- Gain/loss numbers are for the pro-Jacksonian faction.
- Tyler was elected on the Whig ticket in 1840 but expelled from the party in 1841. Gain/loss numbers are for the Whig Party.
- Though primarily affiliated with the Democratic Party, Johnson was elected on the National Union ticket in 1864. Gain/loss numbers are for the Democratic Party.
- Net loss for President's party include vacancies but not vacancies filled before election day
- Dewhirst, Robert; Rausch, John David (2007). Encyclopedia of the United States Congress. New York: Infobase Publishing. p. 138. ISBN 0816050589.
- "Demand for Democracy". The Pew Center on the States. Archived from the original on 2010-06-18. Retrieved 2011-10-13.
- Desilver, D. (2014) Voter turnout always drops off for midterm elections, but why? Pew Research Center, July 24, 2014.
- Busch, Andrew (1999). Horses in Midstream. University of Pittsburgh Press. pp. 18–21.
- Baker, Peter; VandeHei, Jim (2006-11-08). "A Voter Rebuke For Bush, the War And the Right". Washington Post. Retrieved 2010-05-26.
Bush and senior adviser Karl Rove tried to replicate that strategy this fall, hoping to keep the election from becoming a referendum on the president's leadership.
- "Election '98 Lewinsky factor never materialized". CNN. 1998-11-04.
Americans shunned the opportunity to turn Tuesday's midterm elections into a referendum on President Bill Clinton's behavior, dashing Republican hopes of gaining seats in the House and Senate.
- Crockett, David (2002). The Opposition Presidency: Leadership and the Constraints of History. College Station: Texas A&M University Press. p. 228. ISBN 1585441570.