Bill Clinton, Republican Strategy, and the 1994 Elections: How Midterms Become Referenda on the President
The surprising 1994 midterm congressional election gave Republicans control of the House of Representatives for the first time in four decades and offers an opportunity to study the dynamics of a referendum on the president. District-level contextual data on Republicans’ anti-Clinton campaign themes are used to demonstrate the dynamic of creating a presidential referendum in a midterm election. Making President Clinton a focus of the campaign within the constituency decreased the probability of an individual voter casting a ballot for the Democratic congressional candidate, heightened the impact of Clinton’s popularity on individual vote choice; and decreased the aggregate vote percentages for the Democratic candidates. It is unmistakable that highlighting the president’s job performance and his policies at the district level transformed the midterm congressional election into a presidential referendum.
Abramson, Paul R., John H. Aldrich, and David W. Rohde. 1995. Change and Continuity in the 1992 Elections rev. ed. Washington, DC: CQ Press.
Abramowitz, Alan I. 1980. “A Comparison of Voting for U.S. Senator and Representative in 1978.” American Political Science Review 74 (September): 633-640. DOI: https://doi.org/10.2307/1958146
Abramowitz, Alan I. 1984. “National Issues, Strategic Politicians, and Voting Behavior in the 1980 and 1982 Congressional Elections.” American Journal of Political Science 28 (November): 710-721.
Abramowitz, Alan I. 1985. “Economic Conditions, Presidential Popularity, and Voting Behavior in Midterm Congressional Elections.” Journal of Politics 47 (February): 31-43.
Abramowitz, Alan I. 1995. “The End of the Democratic Era? 1994 and the Future of Congressional Election Research.” Political Research Quarterly 48 (December): 873-889. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/106591299504800411
Balz, Dan. 1994a. “Party Controls Both Houses for First Time Since ‘50s.” Washington Post, November 9, A 1.
Balz, Dan. 1994b. “Clinton, GOP Leaders Offer Cooperation.” Washington Post, November 10, p. A1.
Berg, A. Scott. 2013. Wilson. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons.
Berke, Richard. 1994. “Democratic Mainstays Ousted in Big Upsets around the Nation.” New York Times, November 9, p. A1.
Born, Richard. 1986. “Strategic Politicians and Unresponsive Voters.” American Political Science Review 80 (June): 599-612. DOI: https://doi.org/10.2307/1958276
Brace, Paul, and Barbara Hinckley. 1992. Follow the Leader: Opinion Polls and the Modern Presidency. New York: Basic Books.
Brady, David W., John F. Cogan, Brian J. Gaines, and Douglas Rivers. 1996. “The Perils of Presidential Support: How the Republicans Took the House in the 1994 Midterm Elections.” Political Behavior 18 (No. 4): 357-359. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/BF01499093
Brians, Craig L., and Martin P. Wattenberg. 1996. “Campaign Issue Knowledge and Salience: Comparing Reception from TV Commercials, TV News, and Newspapers.” American Journal of Political Science 40 (February): 172-193. DOI: https://doi.org/10.2307/2111699
Broder, David S. 1994a. “Anti-Clinton Platform.” Washington Post, September 19, p. C9.
Broder, David S. 1994b. “GOP House Party.” Washington Post, September 28, 1994, p. A23.
Broder, David S. 1994c. “Naked Punditry.” Washington Post, November 6, 1994, p. C1.
Bryce, James. 1912. The American Commonwealth. New York: Macmillan.
Campbell, James E. 1997a. “The Presidential Pulse and the 1994 Midterm Congressional Election.” Journal of Politics 59 (August): 830-857. DOI: https://doi.org/10.2307/2998639
Campbell, James E. 1997b. The Presidential Pulse of Congressional Elections. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky.
Cillizza, Chris. 2014. “28 Words That Democrats Really Wish President Obama Didn’t Say Today.” The Washington Post, October 2 (www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2014/10/02/28-words-that-democrats-really-wish-president-obama-didnt-say-today).
Clinton, Bill. 2004. My Life. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.
Coleman, John J. 1997. “The Importance of Being Republican: Forecasting Party Fortunes in House Midterm Elections.” Journal of Politics 59 (May): 497-519. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/S0022381600053548
Cover, Albert D. 1986. “Presidential Evaluations and Voting for Congress.” American Journal of Political Science 30 (November): 786-801. DOI: https://doi.org/10.2307/2111273
Dowd, Maureen. 1994. “Vengeful Glee (and Sweetness) at Gingrich’s Victory Party.” New York Times, November 9, p. B2.
Fridkin, Kim Leslie, and Patrick J. Kenney. 2004. “Do Negative Messages Work? The Impact of Negativity on Citizens’ Evaluations of Candidates.” American Politics Research 32 (September): 570-605. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/1532673X03260834
Gaddie, Ronald Keith. 1997. “Congressional Seat Swings: Revisiting Exposure in House Elections.” Political Research Quarterly 50 (September): 699-710. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/106591299705000310
Herrnson, Paul S. 2016. Congressional Elections: Campaigning at Home and in Washington 7th ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: CQ Press.
Hinckley, Barbara. 1980. “The American Voter in Congressional Elections.” American Political Science Review 74 (September): 641-650. DOI: https://doi.org/10.2307/1958147
Jacobson, Gary C. 1989. “Strategic Politicians and the Dynamics of U.S. House Elections, 1946-86.” American Political Science Review 83 (September): 773-793.
Jacobson, Gary C. 1996. “The 1994 House Elections in Perspective.” Political Science Quarterly 111 (Summer): 203-223. DOI: https://doi.org/10.2307/2152319
Jacobson, Gary C. 2009. The Politics of Congressional Elections 7th ed. New York: Pearson Longman.
Jacobson, Gary C., and Samuel Kernell. 1983. Strategy and Choice in Congressional Elections. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Jacobson, Gary C., and Samuel Kernell. 1990. “National Forces in the 1986 U.S. House Elections.” Legislative Studies Quarterly 15 (February): 65-87. DOI: https://doi.org/10.2307/440002
Kahn, Kim Fridkin, and Patrick J. Kenney. 1997. “A Model of Candidate Evaluations in Senate Elections: The Impact of Campaign Intensity.” Journal of Politics 59 (November): 1173-1205. DOI: https://doi.org/10.2307/2998597
Kernell, Samuel. 1977. “Presidential Popularity and Negative Voting: An Alternative Explanation of the Midterm Congressional Decline of the President’s Party.” American Political Science Review 71 (March): 44-66. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/S0003055400259297
Key, V.O., Jr. 1958. Politics, Parties, and Pressure Groups 4th ed. New York: Crowell.
Lau, Richard R. 1982. “Negativity in Political Perceptions.” Political Behavior 4 (No. 4): 353-378. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00986969
Lau, Richard R., and David R. Redlawsk. 2006. How Voters Decide: Information Processing during Election Campaigns. New York: Cambridge University Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511791048
Mann, Thomas E. 1978. Unsafe at Any Margin: Interpreting Congressional Elections. Washington, DC: American Enterprise Institute.
Mann, Thomas E., and Raymond E. Wolfinger. 1980. “Candidates and Parties in Congressional Elections.” American Political Science Review 74 (September): 617-632. DOI: https://doi.org/10.2307/1958145
Marra, Robin F., and Charles W. Ostrom, Jr. 1989. “Explaining Seat Change in the U.S. House of Representatives, 1950-1986.” American Journal of Political Science 33 (August): 541-569.
Newman, Brian, and Charles W. Ostrom, Jr. 2002. “Explaining Seat Changes in the U.S. House of Representatives, 1950-98.” Legislative Studies Quarterly 27 (August): 383-405.
Nicholson, Stephen P., and Gary M. Segura. 1999. “Midterm Elections and Divided Government.” Political Research Quarterly 52 (September): 609-629. DOI: https://doi.org/10.2307/449151
O’Neill, Tip, with Gary Hymel. 1994. All Politics Is Local and Other Rules of the Game. New York: Times Books.
Oppenheimer, Bruce I., James A. Stimson, and Richard W. Waterman. 1986. “Interpreting U.S. Congressional Elections: The Exposure Thesis.” Legislative Studies Quarterly 11 (May): 227-247. DOI: https://doi.org/10.2307/439877
Owens, John E. 1998. “The Importance of Candidate Characteristics and Local Political Conditions in the 1994 US Mid-term Elections.” Political Studies 46: 766-776. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-9248.00166
Pierson, James E. 1975. “Presidential Popularity and Midterm Voting at Different Electoral Levels.” American Journal of Political Science 19 (November): 683-694. DOI: https://doi.org/10.2307/2110721
Popkin, Samuel L. 1991. The Reasoning Voter: Communication and Persuasion in Presidential Campaigns. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Safire, William. 1994. “No Nyah-Nyah.” New York Times, November 10, p. A35.
Smith, Glen, and Kathleen Searles. 2014. “Who Let the (Attack) Dogs Out? New Evidence for Partisan Media Effects.” Public Opinion Quarterly 78 (Spring): 71-99. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/poq/nft082
Soroka, Stuart, and Stephen McAdams. 2015. “News, Politics, and Negativity.” Political Communication 32 (#1): 1-22.
Stanley, Harold W., and Richard G. Niemi. 2013. Vital Statistics on American Politics, 2013-2014. Washington, DC: CQ Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.4135/9781452283258
Tufte, Edward R. 1975. “Determinants of the Outcomes of Midterm Congressional Elections.” American Political Science Review 69 (September): 812-826. DOI: https://doi.org/10.2307/1958391
Wattenberg, Martin P. 1991. The Rise of Candidate-Centered Politics. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.4159/harvard.9780674865723
Copyright (c) 2020 James D King
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Authors who publish with American Review of Politics agree to the following terms:
The Author retains copyright in the Work, where the term “Work” shall include all digital objects that may result in subsequent electronic publication or distribution.
Upon acceptance of the Work, the author shall grant to the Publisher the right of first publication of the Work.
The Author shall grant to the Publisher and its agents the nonexclusive perpetual right and license to publish, archive, and make accessible the Work in whole or in part in all forms of media now or hereafter known under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 License or its equivalent, which, for the avoidance of doubt, allows others to copy, distribute, and transmit the Work under the following conditions:
Attribution: other users must attribute the Work in the manner specified by the author as indicated on the journal Web site;
Non-Commercial: the materials may not be used for commercial purposes;
Share Alike: If you remix, transform, or build upon the material, you must distribute your contributions under the same license as the original.
with the understanding that the above condition can be waived with permission from the Author and that where the Work or any of its elements is in the public domain under applicable law, that status is in no way affected by the license.
The Author is able to enter into separate, additional contractual arrangements for the nonexclusive distribution of the journal's published version of the Work (e.g., post it to an institutional repository or publish it in a book), as long as there is provided in the document an acknowledgement of its initial publication in this journal.
Authors are permitted and encouraged to post online a pre-publication manuscript (but not the Publisher’s final formatted PDF version of the Work) in institutional repositories or on their Websites prior to and during the submission process, as it can lead to productive exchanges, as well as earlier and greater citation of published work (see The Effect of Open Access). Any such posting made before acceptance and publication of the Work shall be updated upon publication to include a reference to the Publisher-assigned DOI (Digital Object Identifier) and a link to the online abstract for the final published Work in the Journal.
Upon Publisher’s request, the Author agrees to furnish promptly to Publisher, at the Author’s own expense, written evidence of the permissions, licenses, and consents for use of third-party material included within the Work, except as determined by Publisher to be covered by the principles of Fair Use.
The Author represents and warrants that:
the Work is the Author’s original work;
the Author has not transferred, and will not transfer, exclusive rights in the Work to any third party;
the Work is not pending review or under consideration by another publisher;
the Work has not previously been published;
the Work contains no misrepresentation or infringement of the Work or property of other authors or third parties; and
the Work contains no libel, invasion of privacy, or other unlawful matter.
The Author agrees to indemnify and hold Publisher harmless from Author’s breach of the representations and warranties contained in Paragraph 6 above, as well as any claim or proceeding relating to Publisher’s use and publication of any content contained in the Work, including third-party content.