11/15/2006 - Decisive congressional election victories of the sort that the Democrats scored last week are usually produced in one of three ways - a surge in the vote for the winning party from the previous midterm election; a collapse in the vote for the losing party; or a big vote gain for the winning party that dwarfs a smaller gain for the losing party.
But this year, there was something a bit different in the turnout dynamic -a sharp increase in the Democratic House vote from 2002, coupled with a significant decline in the Republican vote.
With roughly 95% of the votes tallied so far in House races across the country, the overall partisan breakdown is 52% for Democratic candidates, 46% for Republican candidates and 2% for others. In actual votes, Democratic House candidates in 2006 have already tallied nearly 5 million more votes than they did in 2002, while the Republican tally is down more than 3 million from four years ago.
Put another way, the Democratic House vote has already grown by nearly 15% from 2002 while the Republican House vote has shrunk by nearly 10% from the first post-9/11 election. And those votes that are still outstanding, mainly on the West Coast and for unopposed incumbents, are expected to swell the Democratic total more than the Republican.
The Associated Press has forecast that when all outstanding U.S. House votes are counted this year, the total number will be about 78.7 million, or about 38% of the eligible electorate. In 2002, a total of 73.4 million votes were cast for House candidates by 37% of the eligible electorate.
Read the full backgrounder Democrats Made Gains in All Regions of the Country on the Pew Research Center Web site.