In November 2014, FairVote issued our Monopoly Politics projections for House elections to be held more than two years later, in November 2016. The projections utilize a methodology that produced accurate predictions in 700 of 701 projected races in 2012 and 2014.
Today, we released an update to these projections. The update accounts for the 25 representatives elected in 2014 who will not be seeking reelection in 2016, and adjusts projections for these districts accordingly. In a number of cases, this resulted in a change to our projections, but the net effect of these changes is only one seat. Before today’s update, we projected Republicans to win 212 seats in 2016, Democrats to win 160, and made no projection for 63 seats. Accounting for recent announcements about who will be running in 2016, we now project Democrats as winners in 159 seats, and make no projection in 64 seats. The number of projected Republican seats remains unchanged.
Recent changes to the expected number of incumbents have not changed the stark truth that Democrats cannot retake the House without a strong wave of support; our model suggests that Republicans will retain the majority unless Democrats have the underlying support of 56.4% of voters in 2016.
The skew is due in part to the greater number of Republican incumbents who will enjoy the electoral benefits of holding office in 2016, but it largely results from the fact that the median district in the US House has a partisanship of 52.8% in favor of Republicans. In other words, the high concentrations of Democratic voters in urban areas means that there are simply more Republican-leaning districts than Democratic-leaning districts, even though there are roughly equal numbers of Democratic and Republican-leaning voters nationally.
One important qualification to our 2016 projections is that they represent projections for the districts that were in place on Election Day in 2014. However, legal action against alleged cases of gerrymandering in Florida and Virginia mean that district lines in those states will change before Election Day in 2016. Those changes will affect the partisan balance in some districts and may end up affecting some of our projections, at least in a small handful of districts.