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Release: Immediate

UI professor predicts few losses for Democrats in 1998 Congressional election

(Editors note: Professor Michael Lewis-Beck is available to discuss his election forecast, 319/351-3245.)

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The Democrats should expect to lose fewer seats in the House of Representatives than is typical for a sitting president's party in a mid-term election, according to an election forecast by Michael Lewis-Beck, a University of Iowa political scientist.

Using a forecast model based on the economy, the president's popularity, and the historical pattern of elections in the post-war era, Lewis-Beck predicts that the Democrats will lose only six House seats in the upcoming election. Historically, he said, the party of the sitting president loses 25 to 30 seats in a mid-term election.

"This is a really good forecast for the Democrats," Lewis-Beck said. "If they only lose six seats it won't quite give the Democrats a majority, but it will mean that, despite the Lewinsky affair and the impeachment inquiry, on balance the public is standing by Clinton, and Republican efforts to paint him into a corner have backfired."

Election forecasting is not an exact science, and Lewis-Beck said his model has a margin of error of +/-10, meaning the Democrats could lose up to 16 seats. "But even if this happens ­ the worst case for the Democrats ­ it's still only about half the number the party would historically expect to lose," he said.

Lewis-Beck's forecast model is based on economic indicators and poll figures measuring the president's popularity. Since the economy is generally doing well and President Clinton's overall job approval rating is still high, Lewis-Beck said the Democrats can expect those good feelings to prevail on election day. "The President's party historically does better to the extent that the President is popular and the economy is doing well," he said.

This year, for the first time in a Congressional forecast, Lewis-Beck also included in his model a measure of the public's economic expectations in the coming months. The Index of Consumer Expectations measures people's feelings about the direction of the economy in the coming months. Lewis-Beck said adding that element to his model makes it an even better predictor of actual outcomes.

Lewis-Beck has a strong record for accuracy in election forecasts. In the 1996 Presidential election, he predicted the exact percentage of the vote the President Clinton would win.