Posted on October 12, 2012
Contact: Devin McCarthy at dmccarthy [at] fairvote.org, 301-270-4616
Washington, D.C. -- FairVote, a nonpartisan think tank that analyzes elections and proposes electoral reforms, has issued its new Monopoly Politics 2012 report on U.S. House elections. The report demonstrates the growing partisan rigidity of voters in U.S. House elections with a detailed state-by-state, district-by-district review of this year's congressional races and the 2010 elections. It includes information on the presidential election results in every 2012 district, how each district's partisanship has changed since 2010 and the likely outcome of the Congressional elections next month.
Monopoly Politics 2012 underscores the structural edge that Republican candidates have in today's electoral landscape. If Barack Obama and Mitt Romney were to tie in the popular vote this November, for example, Romney would likely win 242 congressional districts compared to Obama's 193 districts. Republicans therefore start with an advantage in 49 more districts, and Democrats cannot win control of the House without at least 25 of its U.S. House nominees winning in districts that would be carried by Mitt Romney in a close presidential race. In districts with a distinct partisan advantage (with a lean of least 54% to 46% for one party), Republicans have an advantage in 195 districts compared to Democrats having an advantage in 166 districts.
Monopoly Politics 2012 provides insight into the root cause of the lack of competition in House races and the decline of the center in Congress. This root cause is not any dramatic shifts in district partisanship, but rather the combination of winner-take-all voting rules and reduced ticket-splitting by voters. The overwhelming majority of districts are won by the party that has a partisan edge in those districts -- far more than in recent decades -- and most of the decline in centrists is due to a drop in the number of candidates able to win in districts that lean toward the other party. Just as with the steadily shrinking number of swing states in presidential elections over the past two decades (as demonstrated powerfully in FairVote's Presidential Election Inequality reports), imbalanced partisanship is a natural consequence of where people live and the increasing partisan rigidity of the American electorate. Partisan gerrymandering only affects the number of competitive congressional districts on the margins.
"What Monopoly Politics 2012 demonstrates beyond any doubt is that the United States is divided into a growing number of 'spectator districts' and declining number of 'battleground districts,' explained FairVote's director Rob Richie. "But most analysts miss the key point, one that should be overwhelmingly obvious from similar trends in presidential elections. In this era of partisan polarization, the core culprit for our broken congressional elections and polarized Congress is winner-take-all voting rules. Anyone who suggests that the decline in competitive congressional districts and centrist lawmakers is primarily due to redistricting or campaign spending simply isn't understanding the numbers."
To present this fact visually, FairVote's new report features an interactive map that allows users to see the partisan leanings of every district in the nation -- both nationally and in each state -- and click through a series of ways to understand this year's House elections. The visual tells a powerful story: very few areas of the nation fall within a competitive partisan spectrum.
Although undesrcoring how redistricting reform would only marginally affect partisan competition, FairVote's interactive map does showcase the many outlandish districts that mar the current redistricting process -- and our analyses show how mapmakers did act to shield potentially vulnerable incumbents.
Richie commented: "Although we dismiss the simplistic notion that gerrymandering or campaign spending is the root cause of our nation's monopoly politics, we remain highly critical of the redistricting process. For us, it's time to liberate voters from winner-take-all boxes and allow them to define their own representation with fair voting -- relying on constitutional, candidate-based, American forms of proportional representation in multi-seat 'super districts'."
Released along with Monopoly Politics 2012 is Fair Voting 2012, a report grounded in FairVote having drawn multi-seat plans for Congress in every state. The report illustrates a dramatic affect on representation by partisan preference and racial identity of voters. By toggling back and forth between congressional districts on our interactive map, users can compare congressional elections as they are and as they could be with our fair voting plans.
One key finding is that by using a fair voting system in districts with between three and five representatives (with such "super districts" being allowed by the Constitution, used in many congressional elections earlier in our history and used today in many state and local elections), every voter in every state (at least those with three representatives or more) would have a meaningful vote in every election and have representatives from the left, center and right of that district -- including having at least one Democrat and one Republican represent every super district. The number of voters with at least one House representative who is a woman would likely triple from 17% to more than 50%.
Below are key analyses from Monopoly Politics 2012 along with state-by-state profiles of every district and analyses from Fair Voting 2012. For more information, contact FairVote at (301) 270-4616 or email Rob Richie at rr [at] fairvote.org or Lizz Hudler at hudler [at] fairvote.org.
Monopoly Politics 2012 Analysis
- Impact of redistricting - How redistricting in 2011-2012 affected voter choice and shielded vulnerable incumbents
- Election projection overview - What our projections say about the 2012 elections and beyond
- Power of partisanship - How district partisanship overwhelmed all other factors in 2010 elections
- The great partisan shift in the South - Comparison of the partisan landscape in southern states in 1991 to 2011 and that shift's impact on competition and voting rights
- Partisanship and crossover voting in the U.S. House - How district partisanship is the strongest explanation for why some Members break from their party's majority on certain votes
The state links below provide:
- The partisanship rating for all 435 House districts
- The partisanship rating for incumbents' 2012 district compared to their 2010 district, along with information about incumbent's performance
- 2012 election projections for every district based on these factors
- Each state's redistricting process in 2011-2012
- Overview of election and district projections for 2012-2020
Source Data: Find here a spreadsheet containing the complete data used to create the Monopoly Politics 2012 and Fair Voting 2012 reports. This data includes partisanship ratings and racial makeup for each congressional district before and after redistricting, as well as a breakdown of each proposed Super District by partisanship and race.
Fair Voting 2012 Analysis and explanation
- Fair voting overview
- Fair voting FAQ
- Examples of fair voting methods
- District lines built from scratch, a Louisiana fair voting plan
- National comparison of fair voting to current plan and summary
- Illinois history with fair voting for state house of representatives
- Legality of fair voting for Congress
- Department of Justice Support for Fair Voting
- Proposed congressional statutes to allow and require fair voting, with background
- Voting Rights Analysis
- Glossary of terms
- Dedication to William Raspberry and Lindsey Needham
- Comprehensive state-by-state data on competition and representation in every state since 1982