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Release: Sept. 12, 2002

UI professor predicts Democrats will take control of Congress

Democrats will regain control of the House of Representatives and expand their majority in the Senate following the November mid-term elections, said Michael Lewis-Beck, a University of Iowa political scientist and election forecaster.

Lewis-Beck and his collaborator, Charles Tien of Hunter College, predict the House will gain eight Democratic seats and the Senate will gain three Democratic seats. The news is not all bad for the Republicans, Lewis-Beck said, since these predicted seat losses are clearly a smaller number than are traditionally lost by the party of the sitting president.

The forecast models, which are based on data gathered on elections across the post-World War II period, take into account two important substantive factors: the popularity of the president and the increase in disposable income.

Lewis-Beck said summer estimates of both are somewhat favorable for the party in the White House--in June, President Bush's popularity in the Gallup poll equaled 70 percent, which is the second highest June midterm election rating since 1950, and disposable income growth over the first two quarters of 2002 was 2.21 percent, which is the largest midterm growth in disposable income since 1986.

"However," he said, "these positive numbers will be overwhelmed by the historic pattern of mid-term loss for the president's party. The party controlling the White House has lost an average of 24 House seats and 4 Senate seats during midterm elections since 1950."

With respect to the Senate, these relatively positive popularity and economy numbers will help the Republicans, but not enough to overcome the losses they will sustain from having an unusually large number (20) of Republican seats being contested, Lewis-Beck said.

Lewis-Beck and Tien caution that these election forecasts, like any others, are not expected to be exactly right. However, since they are based on historically accurate models, they provide an advanced look at a very probable outcome.