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Posted at 9:00 AM ET, 01/ 4/2011

What was incumbency worth in 2010?

By Ezra Klein

Apparently five percentage points, which is a lot lower than it's been in the past:

Steve Ansolabehere and Jim Snyder estimate the incumbency advantage in the past set of House elections to be 5 percentage points. They estimated these the week of the election and then re-estimated once most of the states produced their certified votes, about a month later, and they seem consistent with our post-election estimate of 6 percentage points, which is a bit lower than the 8-10 percentage-point advantage that was the norm in the 1980s and 1990s. As Steve writes, the declining incumbency advantage is one part of the story by which the Republicans were able to grab so many seats in 2010.

By Ezra Klein  | January 4, 2011; 9:00 AM ET
Categories:  2010 Midterms, Political Science  
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--*[T]he declining incumbency advantage is one part of the story by which the Republicans were able to grab so many seats in 2010.*--

Klein and his cohorts just love burping out the nonsense. Is someone trying to say that the outcome was the cause?

Posted by: msoja | January 4, 2011 9:14 AM | Report abuse

Read the links: My understanding is that the declining incumbency advantage is a long-term trend, which means it also helps explain Dem gains in 06 and 08.

Posted by: Ezra Klein | January 4, 2011 9:24 AM | Report abuse

This doesn't seem terribly surprising. In any year when a majority loses a lot of seats the incumbency value is going to be pretty low.

What would be more interesting is if we're seeing a long term decline in the value of incumbency. My guess is that if minority parties are able to successfully obstruct the majority parties' agendas over time, the value of incumbency will decrease over time as voters "throw the bums out" more and more frequently.

msoja, as unclever and pointless as always. You're consistent, I'll give you that.

Posted by: MosBen | January 4, 2011 9:28 AM | Report abuse

i'd also suggest that the state of the economy has something to do with incumbency as well. If we were at 6% unemployment, GDP growing at a reasonable rate, etc I'd think we'd have a better shot at retaining legislators. Since we don't all their jobs are on the line (as it should be).

Posted by: visionbrkr | January 4, 2011 9:40 AM | Report abuse

Hey, Klein, why don't YOU follow the links.

"What the forecasts got wrong was the incumbency advantage. Rather than the usual ten points, the advantage last year collapsed to just five points—as low as it has been measured since the 1960s."

Please cite the "long-term trend" you refer to.

Posted by: msoja | January 4, 2011 10:03 AM | Report abuse

Well, the graph at the end of the Boston Review article looks like a trend to me, and they end the article by referring to it as a trend. There is also a paragraph in the middle where they suggest that 2010 could be a one time shock to incumbency values, but like I said, that graph at the bottom shows a pretty steady decline over the '00s.

Either way, I think this is more a correlation than a causation. A decline in the power of incumbency is, I think, a result of minorities becoming more effective at obstructing the majority party's agenda. Republicans took it to new heights in the 111th Congress, and were rewarded with electoral gains. As the article suggests, I think continued minority obstruction by both parties will probably lead to the House changing hands much more frequently than we're used to.

Posted by: MosBen | January 4, 2011 11:24 AM | Report abuse

The chart at the end doesn't show anything before 2002, but the text says:

"[T]he incumbency advantage [in '02, '04, '06, and '08] ranged from 9 to 15 percent, a level comparable to the incumbency advantage from the 1970s through the end of the 1990s."

In other words, the apparent trend in the chart wasn't a trend at all in the grand scheme.

And the initial sentence I quoted is still illogical, if not downright misleading.

And Klein is still confused even though the article was written in the last hundred years.

Posted by: msoja | January 4, 2011 7:22 PM | Report abuse

Further: "Strangely, the drop was the same for both parties in the House. Neither party’s incumbents performed at their usual level.

"Even more puzzling, the Senate did not exhibit the same decline in the incumbency advantage."

So, how is it logical to say that "[T]he declining incumbency advantage is one part of the story by which the Republicans were able to grab so many seats in 2010," when said decline was felt equally by Democrats and Republicans in the House, and essentially didn't occur in the Senate?

Isn't it just more Klein-ish gibberish?

Posted by: msoja | January 4, 2011 7:40 PM | Report abuse

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