Don’t Call 2014 An Anti-Incumbent Election

Nathan L. Gonzales December 1, 2014 · 10:20 AM EST

Before the holiday, I had a piece on FiveThirtyEight.com talking about so-called "anti-incumbent elections." A couple of excerpts are below but feel free to read the whole piece. 

Despite a stunningly low congressional approval rating and many calls to “throw all the bums out,” we don’t have anti-incumbent elections in the United States. This year’s House elections were just another example.

There are wave elections, in which voters take out their frustrations on one party in a lopsided way. But rarely, if ever, are Democratic and Republican incumbents punished in large and equal numbers. My colleague Stuart Rothenberg of the Rothenberg Political Report often writes about this (as he did in these columns from 2007 and 2014).

And here is one more tidbit:

Because election percentage can distort the margin of victory, the latter is also worth examination.

This cycle, 13 Democratic incumbents won re-election by less than 5 percentage points. No winning GOP incumbent had a race that close. The closest race for a winning GOP incumbent was Rep. Dan Benishek, who won re-election in Michigan’s 1st District by just under 7 percentage points. Fourteen victorious Democratic incumbents had closer races than Benishek.

While Democratic incumbents were losing, Republicans were cruising. Just two Republican incumbents in the entire country won by less than 10 points.