I read in some places (Twitter feeds of Democratic officials mostly) that this election was better for the president's party than most (if not any) in history.

How much is that true, with respect to historical precedent? Are there measurable values for that? Has no midterm election ever resulted in a trifecta (even when taking into account the Senate's innate inertia)?

A bit related to Why the Democratic exuberance and Republican dejection about the 2022 US midterm elections? but based on comparison with historical precedence.

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    It might be a bit hard to say at this time as there are still a few seats up in the air and it is unsure how final control will end up. However I do think this is an interesting question.
    – Joe W
    Commented Nov 12, 2022 at 2:34
  • See also politics.stackexchange.com/questions/76607/… Commented Nov 12, 2022 at 7:10
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    @JoeW I think even if all the pending contests go against the Dems, it will still be one of the best midterms for the party in power.
    – Barmar
    Commented Nov 12, 2022 at 16:03
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    @Barmar That is true but the number that they pick up or don't pick up will change the answer. While it is unlikely it is still possible for them to remain in control in both the house and senate and that would be a much larger victory then what is currently predicted.
    – Joe W
    Commented Nov 12, 2022 at 16:09

1 Answer 1



Considering all midterms since the end of WWII (i.e. 1946 onwards),

  • An estimated loss of 8 seats by Democrats in the House would rank as the 5th most successful midterm in terms of seat losses.

  • An estimated –1 to +1 Democratic seats in the Senate would rank as the 4th–7th most successful midterm in terms of seat losses.

  • The Democrats will likely lose the House but retain the Senate. Putting that in perspective, the President's party has won / retained control of the House in only 5 midterms and the Senate in 8 midterms (9 if you count this year's in).

  • Only in 5 midterms has the President's party win / retain control of a trifecta

    • Bush (2002), Carter (1978), Johnson (1966), Kennedy (1962) and Truman (1950)
    • The President's party has never won the House in a midterm election without also winning a trifecta.
  • Lastly, compared to President Biden's immediate predecessors, this is a relatively successful first midterm, especially in the House.

    • –63 (Obama, 2010), –40 (Trump, 2018) and –54 (Clinton, 1994)
    • with the exception of Bush who gained 6 seats in 2002

At the time of this post, the state of the election is as follows:


Party Pre-election1 Currently leading in count2 Estimated change
Democrats 222 214 (201 projected) –8
Republicans 213 221 (211 projected) +8

1 3 vacant House seats are assigned to the party that last held it
2 23 seats remain uncalled


Party Pre-election Possible Outcomes3 Estimated change
Democrats 50 49–51 (49 projected) –1 / 0 / +1
Republicans 50 49–51 (49 projected) –1 / 0 / +1

3 Senate election in Nevada remains uncalled and Georgia will proceed to a runoff

Assuming all the candidates win where they lead (i.e. a 221R – 214D House and an almost even Senate), this is considered to be one of the more successful midterms for the President's party in recent history.

FiveThirtyEight published an article earlier this year showing the historical performance of the President's party in midterm elections since the end of World War II (i.e. 1946 onwards).

A loss of 8 seats in the House by the Democrats would be the 5th most successful performance by the President's party in a midterm and very much on the low end of seat losses.


FiveThirtyEight also published a piece detailing the unusual circumstances that led to the success of the President's party in the 1962, 1998 and 2002 midterm House elections.

In 19 midterm elections since World War II, the president’s party lost fewer than five seats in the House once, in 1962. And they gained seats twice, in 1998 and 2002.

[ ... ]

In short, all these elections featured some sort of special circumstance: the Great Depression, the Cuban missile crisis, the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the first impeachment of a president in 130 years. But such a definition is inherently fuzzy as you can potentially retrofit almost any political or news development to constitute a “special circumstance,” in the same way that almost every election gets called “the most important election of our lifetimes.”

Assuming an 8-seat loss, the Democrats would still lose the House. Putting that in historical context, it is very rare for the President's party to win / retain control of the House in a midterm election. A snapshot from Wikipedia of the same period shows that the President's party has won the House in only five midterms since the end of WWII.

  • Bush (2002), Carter (1978), Johnson (1966), Kennedy (1962) and Truman (1950)


In the Senate, however, there's a mixed historical record for the President's party. Assuming there's a gain of 1 seat by the Democrats, this would be tied for the 4th most successful midterm performance in the Senate.


It is also more common for the President's party to win / retain control of the Senate in a midterm election. Using the same table from Wikipedia above, the President's party has won the Senate in nine midterms since the end of WWII.

  • Trump (2018), Obama (2010), Bush (2002), Reagan (1982), Carter (1978), Johnson (1966), Kennedy (1962) and Truman (1950)
  • 2
    Nice graphics and statistics. Commented Nov 12, 2022 at 7:10
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    @Trilarion Credits to FiveThirtyEight!
    – Panda
    Commented Nov 12, 2022 at 7:58
  • I don't know what dominates the political debate in the USA, but we are in the middle of a climate crisis, a war in Europe, and historically high inflation, and in this context, most recent regional elections in Germany have gone to the party in charge. So the "in times of crisis, stick to the leadership" model would fit with the 2022 US elections as well, wouldn't it?
    – gerrit
    Commented Nov 12, 2022 at 12:53
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    @Gerrit while the “don’t change horses midstream” does work in the US at times- most notably when the US is in a war and more so for the president than Congress- the items you listed: Climate- voters who view that at a priority probably vote DEM already; inflation- the worse it is, the more likely we are to “vote the bums out”; the war- Americans follow it but our troops are not in it and unlike you it is not on our doorstep. (n.b. Not saying I don’t think it is important, just how it affected the “average” voter).
    – Damila
    Commented Nov 12, 2022 at 13:17
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    @gerrit Also, we vote for president, and we vote for individuals for each of two houses of legislature, by district and state. So it’s different than a parliamentary election for who is in charge.
    – Damila
    Commented Nov 12, 2022 at 13:19

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