First issued in 1994 and then every two years thereafter, Dubious Democracy provides a comprehensive quantitative assessment of the level of competition, rate of voter participation, and share of votes cast for losing candidates in elections to the U.S. House of Representatives in all 50 states. With analysis of data since 1982, the report ranks each state on a "democracy index" based on average margin of victory, percentage of seats to votes, how many voters elect candidates and number of House races won by overwhelming landslides.
Dubious Democracy provides one overriding insight: Although our constitutional framers gave the House of Representatives extraordinary powers and, of all the branches of government, the clearest accountability to the American people, that accountability has been destroyed beyond recognition by winner-take-all election rules that magnify the incumbency advantage and redistricting.
Dubious Democracy 2018 highlights the chronic lack of competition and accountability in U.S. House elections across the nation. Of the 435 total U.S. House races in 2018, one in 11 were uncontested by a major party and three in five were decided by at least 20 points. Only one-fifth of all races were decided by less than 10 points. On average, the margin of victory between the winner and the runner-up for a U.S. House seat was 32 points.
In addition to being uncompetitive, election results have also been far from fair. Under a fair, proportional system, a party should earn roughly as many seats as votes cast for them across each state. In 2018, however, the states that elect at least three Representatives had a median seats-to-votes distortion of over 20 percentage points. That means that in half of those states, one of the two major parties received at least 20 percent more seats than they earned by their vote share. For instance, Democrats in California received 20.2% more seats than they earned by their share of votes while Republicans in Ohio received 22.6% more seats than they earned by their share of votes.
Dubious Democracy 2018 breaks down the disparity between seats won and votes cast for each party in all 50 states. Click the link below to see how each state scores on crucial measures affecting American democracy.
Click the links below to find our past Dubious Democracy datasets.