New Data Paints Dire Picture of Democracy after 2016 Elections

Author: Fair Vote
Created: 01 May, 2017
Updated: 17 October, 2022
1 min read

Last week, we released our Dubious Democracy 2016 dataset on U.S. House elections.  The story that the 2016 election data tells is damning. Like past elections, the 2016 U.S. House elections proved to be incredibly uncompetitive. As demonstrated in FairVote’s most recent Monopoly Politics report, multiple metrics reveal that inequality and a dearth of competition continues to plague congressional elections.

Overall, almost 97% of incumbent congressmen won reelection in 2016. Of the 392 incumbents who ran for re-election, just 12 lost their races, despite a congressional approval rating, on election day, mired in the teens.

Not only do incumbent congressmen almost always win, they usually win in landslides — classified here as elections where the winning candidate wins by at least 20 points. For instance, out of the 435 U.S. House elections, 321 elections, or 74% of races, were landslide victories.

Among all districts, the average margin of victory for the winning candidate was roughly 36.5%, while the median margin of victory was 31.5%. Furthermore, in the 369 contested* congressional elections, 259 candidates, or roughly 70%, won landslide victories. In fact, the average margin of victory in contested races was just over 30%, while the median margin of victory was 28.5%.

Moreover, just a small fraction of races were even close. For example, of all 435 congressional races, only 16 races, or just 3.7%, were decided by less than five percent, while only 15 of the 369 contested races were decided by less than five points.

Read more about the findings and view visual breakdowns of the data here.

Photo Credit: Diego Grandi / shutterstock.com