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Election Update: 100 Women — Or More — Could Be Elected To The House

Welcome to our Election Update for Thursday, Oct. 25! Democrats currently have a 5 in 6 chance (84 percent) to flip the House. That’s a little lower than Monday’s mark of 87 percent. Their average gain is 38 seats.

Many of those gains will be because of women. Women appear poised to vote for Democrats in record numbers this year, and many of the candidates themselves are women. The 116th Congress could have a record number of female legislators; at present, the historical high-water mark is the 107 women (84 in the House, 23 in the Senate) currently serving in the 115th Congress.

Our model agrees that it’s likely that a historic number of women will serve in the next Congress, but how many female legislators can we expect? Using gender data that we collected with Ballotpedia earlier this year, we identified 238 women from major parties (186 Democrats, 52 Republicans) running for the House. Then, using our House forecast,1 we compiled a list that’s impressive for its length: all the women favored to win2 a House seat this year.

A potentially record-breaking roster of women in the House

Female candidates in 2018 House races with at least a 1 in 2 chance of winning, according to FiveThirtyEight’s forecast as of Oct. 24

The races with a chance of winning at 100 percent are uncontested.

Source: Ballotpedia

If every woman currently leading a district were to end up winning, there would be 100 women in the House, plus 24 in the Senate.3 That totals 124 women in Congress, which easily blows past the current count of 107.

But this kind of seat gain isn’t guaranteed. Women could gain dozens of seats — but they might also add only a handful. For example, say we limit our forecast data to women with 3 in 4 chances of winning or better; there would be only 115 women in the next Congress. That would still be a historic high, with 92 female representatives compared with 84, but it would mean no gains for women in the Senate4 and only eight more seats overall. On the other hand, let’s assume that every woman with at least a 1 in 4 chance ends up prevailing. In this more optimistic scenario for women, there could be 120 congresswomen and 26 female senators on Jan. 3, 2019. That total of 146 women would be a 36 percent increase over the current number — but it’s worth noting that, even under this scenario, Congress would still be nowhere near gender parity.

As my colleague Perry Bacon Jr. has written, progress in electing more women to Congress has come mostly on the Democratic side of the aisle. As you can see in the chart below, the number of Republican women in Congress has plateaued since the 1990s (when the first “Year of the Woman” in 1992 was also Democrat-fueled), while Democratic women have made steady gains even as the number of Democratic men has shrunk.

Our forecast suggests that trend will continue: Assuming all 100 forecast leaders win their House races, 83 of the next session’s congresswomen will be Democrats, compared with just 17 who will be Republicans. Currently, of the 84 total congresswomen, there are 61 Democrats and 23 Republicans; that means that the gain would be among Democratic women, while the number of Republican women would actually decrease. If our model is correct, the ratio of Democratic congresswomen to Republican congresswomen will the be highest it has ever been.



Footnotes

  1. In the Classic version of our model as of 4:40 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 24.

  2. With chances greater than or equal to 50 percent.

  3. Based on the same exercise using our Senate forecast, the Senate would lose one woman in Heidi Heitkamp, but it would gain two in Marsha Blackburn and Kyrsten Sinema.

  4. Under this scenario, Claire McCaskill and Heitkamp would lose, but the Senate would still gain a woman in Blackburn. And no matter what, a woman is guaranteed to replace Jeff Flake in Arizona — both candidates running are women.

Nathaniel Rakich is FiveThirtyEight’s elections analyst.

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