An Econometric Evaluation of Competing Explanations for The Midterm Gap

Brian G. Knight

NBER Working Paper No. 20311
Issued in July 2014
NBER Program(s):   POL

This paper provides a unified theoretical and empirical analysis of three longstanding explanations for the consistent loss of support for the President’s party in midterm Congressional elections: (1) a Presidential penalty, defined as a preference for supporting the opposition during midterm years, (2) a surge and decline in voter turnout, and (3) a reversion to the mean in voter ideology. To quantify the contribution of each of these factors, we build an econometric model in which voters jointly choose whether or not to participate and which party to support in both House and Presidential elections. Estimated using ANES data from both Presidential and midterm years, the model can fully explain the observed midterm gaps, and counterfactual simulations demonstrate that each factor makes a sizable contribution towards the midterm gap, with the Presidential penalty playing the largest role.

You may purchase this paper on-line in .pdf format from ($5) for electronic delivery.

Access to NBER Papers

You are eligible for a free download if you are a subscriber, a corporate associate of the NBER, a journalist, an employee of the U.S. federal government with a ".GOV" domain name, or a resident of nearly any developing country or transition economy.

If you usually get free papers at work/university but do not at home, you can either connect to your work VPN or proxy (if any) or elect to have a link to the paper emailed to your work email address below. The email address must be connected to a subscribing college, university, or other subscribing institution. Gmail and other free email addresses will not have access.


This paper was revised on November 10, 2015

Machine-readable bibliographic record - MARC, RIS, BibTeX

Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w20311

Users who downloaded this paper also downloaded* these:
Murfin and Petersen w20310 Loans on sale: Credit market seasonality, borrower need, and lender rents
Heiss, Venti, and Wise w20306 The Persistence and Heterogeneity of Health among Older Americans
Breza, Chandrasekhar, and Larreguy w20309 Social Structure and Institutional Design: Evidence from a Lab Experiment in the Field
Kilenthong and Townsend w20275 A Market Based Solution to Price Externalities: A Generalized Framework
Schorfheide, Song, and Yaron w20303 Identifying Long-Run Risks: A Bayesian Mixed-Frequency Approach
NBER Videos

National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138; 617-868-3900; email:

Contact Us