Author (Your Name)

Elizabeth Ivry, Colby College

Date of Award


Document Type

Honors Thesis (Open Access)


Colby College. Government Dept.


L. Sandy Maisel


The differences in these election results raise several questions about the role and purpose of congressional elections in our democratic society. What factors could explain why two such similar elections, those of 1946 and 1994, were followed by two such different elections, those of 1948 and 1996? Has the relationship between congressional elections and congressional behaviors changed in the past 50 years? Are congressional elections still a referendum of the previous Congress and the incumbent presidency, or are other factors influencing the electorate's voting patterns? Were the midterm elections of 1946 and 1994 just extreme examples of what political scientists and politicians have come to expect in off-year elections? And finally, what do these periods indicate about the future of divided government in the United States? The remainder of this thesis will answer these questions in order to understand more thoroughly the relationship between congressional elections and congressional behavior. The first section provides a brief history of the purpose of congressional elections as designed by our Founders, followed by a literarure review discussing post-World War II theories of congressional campaigns, elections, and divided government. Section II describes the Truman experience between 1946 and 1948, the congressional elections of 1946 and 1948 as well as the record of the 80th Congress. Section III follows a similar format, discussing the Clinton experience, the congressional elections of 1994 and 1996, and the record of the 104th Congress. Section IV is an analysis comparing the data presented in Sections II and ill and answering the questions raised above in addition to a conclusion.


United States -- Congress -- Elections, Elections -- United States, Political parties -- United States