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Explained: What are US mid-term polls and why are they important

On November 8, the people of the United States will vote to elect their representatives in both the House and Senate, a mandate that will hugely impact Joe Biden’s remaining term as the President. 

Called mid-terms because they fall in the middle of the President’s four-year term in office, the polls are extremely significant for the party in power in the White House for the easy passing of legislations. 

This year, the mid-terms are not “normal mid-terms,” considering the economic and political situations prevalent in the US. The inflation and the ongoing war in Ukraine too makes it certain that the poll results will have far-reaching consequences.

The House and the Senate

One of the two houses of the bicameral United States Congress, the House of Representatives makes and passes all laws. It is the House members who decide which laws are voted on. 

There are currently 435 members of the House of Representatives, and each state is represented in the House based on its population and has at least one representative.

All 435 seats in the House of Representatives, the lower chamber of Congress, are being contested during the mid-terms. 

The Democratic Party currently holds the majority in the House, though wafer-thin. While Democrats have 220 members in the House, Republicans have 212, and three are vacant. Every representative serves a two-year term in the House.

As for Senate, the upper chamber, one-third of the 100 seats are up for grabs. The members to the Senate are elected to a six-year term on a rolling basis, meaning that one-third of the total seats in the Senate come up for contest every two years. Each US state has two senators. 

A huge power is vested on the Senate, which can block of approve legislations and decide on the appointments made by the President. The Senate also has the powers to conduct any investigations against him. 

At present, the Senate is split between 50-50. However, Democrats have control as Vice President Kamala Harris holds a casting vote.

Significance of the mid-term

Controlling both the chambers is important for the party at power in the White House for the passing of legislations. Historically, the trend has been such that the party in power often loses the seats in both houses. 

For Biden, Republicans taking control of one of the houses could mean roadblocks in getting his agenda passed. It could also help GOP further the legislations they want, besides adding impetus to Donald Trump’s or a Republican comeback. 

Poll figures and early forecasts too do not seem to favour Biden. Election trackers hint that Republicans are winning back the House of Representatives, but the Democrats have a 61 per cent chance to hold the Senate. But, the headwinds are strong and the slip of a single seat can change the equations in the equally-split Senate. 

Even a divided Congress where Republicans get to control House and Democrats the Senate wouldnt be an ideal scenario. This would be an impediment to passing laws on serious issues like immigration and healthcare and can even stall the investigation into the last year’s Capitol coup.



The mid-terms have a far-reaching implications this time as Republicans wresting control of both or one of the chambers could have an impact on protecting abortion rights in the country, since the Supreme Court is set to decide a case that could result in Roe v. Wade being overturned later this year.

The Republicans are also threatening investigations into the topics of their interest, like into the business dealings of Hunter Biden, withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan. Even the US foreign policy on the Russia-Ukraine war could change. It would be difficult for Biden to make new appointments, including to the US Supreme Court. 

The elections could also hold the key to the future of the next Presidential candidate for 2024. If the Trump-backed candidates do not prove themselves in the midterm, that might affect his chances to run for the President again. 

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