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In national elected offices, women are severely under-represented. As Representation 2020 (a project of FairVote) highlights, women currently hold only 18% of U.S. House seats. The 2014 midterm elections are right around the corner, and, as reported by the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers, 160 women are running for seats in the U.S. House. Will the 2014 midterm elections bring the U.S. House closer to gender parity? Using FairVote’s Monopoly Politics 2014 Report, we projected the results for these candidates come November 4th. Here are a few of the highlights.
The first major finding is: the same old, same old. Monopoly Politics 2014 shows that the vast majority of races are not competitive. The party that won the support of a given district in 2012 is very likely to retain it in 2014. As a result, women incumbents in the U.S. House are likely to continue to hold their seats.
Of the 73 women incumbents in 2014, 65 of them are projected to win, and none are projected to lose. In the remaining eight seats, Monopoly Politics cautiously offers no projection. Still, other pollsters (including the Cook Political Report and POLITICO) estimate that six of those eight candidates will win, and only two are in true toss-up races. In short, the rigidity of partisan politics seems to benefit women incumbents just as it does their male counterparts.
But before we celebrate the rigidity of partisan politics (and rarely is there such an occasion), remember that most incumbents are men, as again, women currently occupy 18% of the U.S. House. Men are more likely to benefit from the advantage than women, simply because they have more to lose.
The Monopoly Politics 2014 projections for women challengers reveal why rigidity of partisan politics is such a significant problem. Of the 70 women candidates that are challenging current incumbents, Monopoly Politics does not project that any of them will win, and projects 57 of them will lose. Monopoly Politics offers no projections for thirteen of the races, but other pollsters predict the likely results. For those thirteen candidates, only two are in true toss-up races, and the remaining eleven are projected to lose.
In short, the lack of competition in the 2014 midterm elections is likely to help perpetuate the current demographic make-up of the U.S. House. Too often, the rigidity of partisan politics keeps men incumbents in office and limits the entry of women candidates.
One possible solution is to change the way that we elect candidates into office. Representation 2020, a project of FairVote, proposes that the U.S. should switch to fair representation voting in multi-member districts to increase the election of women candidates. Research shows that women tend to do better in multi-member districts, both in U.S. state legislatures and in national legislatures all around the world. Under FairVote’s plan to use multi-members districts to elect U.S. Representatives, districts would be combined, a fair representation voting alternative to winner-take-all would be used, and a team of three to five House Representatives would represent each “super district” within a state. That team would be likely to incorporate more women.
The second major finding within FairVote’s projected outcomes for women candidates is based on open seats, those in which no incumbent is running for re-election. The results: the U.S. House is not moving toward gender parity fast enough by failing to bring women into open seats.
There are a total of 45 open seats, and women candidates are running in fourteen of those races. (Seventeen women candidates are running, but in three races, there are two women candidates running against one another.) Even if women candidates won in every one of those races, they would still win only 31.1% of the open seats, far from gender parity.
Monopoly Politics 2014 projects that at least six women will win open seat elections, or 13.3% of new seats. For an additional six women candidates, Monopoly Politics does not make projections, but other prognosticators using current polls estimate that three will win. That would mean a total of nine new women in the U.S. House. Nonetheless, women will still only hold 20% of new seats, meaning that the current rate of women’s representation in the U.S House will not be affected by incoming freshmen representatives.
Even where incumbency does not stand in the way, a lack of female candidates means that the march towards gender parity in the U.S. House of Representatives is not happening fast enough. Representation 2020 also argues that to reach gender parity, we need to expand current efforts to recruit more women into politics. Political parties, influential leaders, donors, and other gatekeepers must act to dramatically increase the number of women candidates they support in political races. We also need to reform legislative practices in Congress, so that elected offices are more attractive positions for women, particularly women that choose to combine work and family responsibilities. Without these steps, the U.S. House of Representatives will continue to miss out on half the talent pool.
The 2014 midterm elections are not likely to significantly impact gender parity in the U.S. House. Representation 2020 will also soon review projections for women candidates in races for the Senate and the Governor, and we expect to encounter similar projections. Reaching our goal of gender parity by 2020 will require meaningful reforms, and a demonstrated commitment to women leaders.
Data for this blog was collected from a variety of sources. The list of women candidates was collected from the Center for American Women in Politics at Rutgers.
Most projections were drawn from the latest version of FairVote’s report, Monopoly Politics 2014. Monopoly Politics 2014 makes projections using only district partisanship and incumbents' recent results. It projects any race in which one candidate is estimated to earn 56% or more of the vote. It do not project races for incumbents that won by less than 4% in the last election, or who represent a district that's partisanship favors the other party. In Monopoly Politics 2012, we released projections for 85% of House races, and our projections achieved 100% accuracy.
The secondary source projections were collected from the Cook Political Report and from POLITICO. To view the raw data of the projections for each candidate using Monopoly Politics 2014 and secondary sources, download our spreadsheet. To read more about Representation 2020 and its proposed reforms, visit www.representation2020.com.