International Journal of Humanities and Social Science

ISSN 2220-8488 (Print), 2221-0989 (Online) 10.30845/ijhss

The Electability of Moderate Candidates in United States Federal Congressional Elections
Lucas L. Zhu

This study explores the idea of moderate candidates being more electable in United States general elections compared to more firebrand members of their party. This study takes election data from incumbents running for re-election in the 2018 midterm elections, 2020 congressional elections, and 2020 Presidential election. Each incumbent’s margin is subtracted from their respective party’s 2020 Presidential nominee’s margin in their location to determine how much each incumbent overperformed or underperformed their party’s nominee. Data was also taken from GovTrack to indicate each candidate’s ideology and graphs were created with the x-axis representing ideology and y-axis representing electoral overperformance or underperformance. The study generally demonstrates that there is a slight and very weak correlation in general between a candidate’s electoral overperformance or underperformance and their ideology, with more moderate candidates performing slightly better compared to more extreme ones. However, the study showed stronger evidence supporting the idea that moderate incumbents running for re-election in districts or states won by the opposite party’s Presidential nominee had higher overperformances compared to more extreme members of their party. The conclusions drawn from this study can be used by primary voters who care the most about electability of their party’s candidate in a general election.

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