Study: Republicans could lose almost all their most creditworthy congressional districts in upcoming election

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In a Nutshell

Credit Karma looked at the median credit scores for each U.S. congressional district and found that almost all the highest-credit-scoring Republican-held districts are swing districts, suggesting Republicans could lose control of their most financially stable voter bases if these districts swing blue in the upcoming midterm elections.
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After Donald Trump won the 2016 presidential election by carrying several traditionally Democratic midwestern states, a common narrative emerged — Democrats had failed to engage one key segment of their base: white working-class voters facing economic distress.

That may be true, but in 2018, control of the U.S. House of Representatives will likely be decided not in the country’s most economically strapped areas, but instead by some of the most financially stable districts in the country, according to a new Credit Karma analysis.

Credit Karma looked at the median VantageScore 3.0 credit scores for every U.S. congressional district and found that, overall, “swing” districts — those most likely to switch party affiliation in an election — have higher scores and healthier finances than “safe” districts (that is, congressional districts at lower risk of swinging to the opposing political party).

What’s more, we saw that almost all the highest-credit-scoring Republican-held districts are categorized as swing districts — if voters in those areas decide to swing blue in the midterm elections, Republican members of the House stand to lose their most creditworthy and financially stable voting areas.


Swing districts are more creditworthy than others

We started by comparing the credit profiles of Credit Karma members who lived in “safe” Democratic, “safe” Republican and “swing” districts, as defined by the Cook Political Report’s 2018 House Race Ratings. (Learn more about our methodology.)

The analysis, conducted with TransUnion credit report data from the past five months, compared members by their median VantageScore 3.0 credit score and found that swing districts have higher credit scores and higher incomes than safe districts of either party.

Table 1. Average and Median VantageScore 3.0 Credit Score of Districts by Party Control

Safe Democratic Safe Republican Swing
Average credit score 634 631 641
Median credit score 644 639 649
Median income $58,742 $54,885 $69,552

 

Republicans could lose almost all their most financially stable districts

We then cross-checked the list of swing districts against the list of all seats held by House Republicans — swing and safe, alike. Here, we found that of the top 10 Republican districts by median VantageScore 3.0 credit score, nine are at risk of swinging away from Republicans this cycle.

These nine districts have some common characteristics: All are located in wealthy suburbs of major cities in blue states, and most of them vote only slightly more strongly for Republicans on average than the nation as a whole, according to The Cook Political Report Partisan Voter Index (PVI).

Table 2. 10 Republican districts with the highest median credit score

District name Major cities and areas represented Current rep Median VantageScore 3.0 credit score Status Cook PVI
NJ-11 Dover, Morristown, Hanover, East Hanover, Madison, Hopatcong, Somerville Rodney Frelinghuysen 691 Swing R+3
VA-10 Winchester, Leesburg, Ashburn, Chantilly Barbara Comstock 685 Swing D+1
CA-49 Oceanside, Vista, Carlsbad, Encinitas Darrell Issa 681 Swing R+1
NJ-07 North Plainfield, Cranford, Westfield, Scotch Plains Leonard Lance 678 Swing R+3
CA-45 Irvine, Tustin, North Tustin, Villa Park, Anaheim Hills, Laguna Hills, Lake Forest Mimi Walters 675 Swing R+3
NY-11 Staten Island, Southern Brooklyn Dan Donovan 674 Swing R+3
IL-06 West Chicago, Inverness, Wheaton Peter Roskam 674 Swing R+2
CA-48 Costa Mesa, Huntington Beach, Laguna Beach, Aliso Viejo Dana Rohrabacher 672 Swing R+4
UT-03 Provo, Orem John Curtis 671 Safe R+25
MN-03 Brooklyn Park, Bloomington, Eden Prairie Erik Paulsen 670 Swing D+1

 

In fact, the swing districts currently held by Republicans collectively represent some of their most creditworthy. If Republicans were to lose all of them, the average and median VantageScore 3.0 credit scores across Republican-held districts would decrease by 4 points.

Table 3. Average and median VantageScore 3.0 credit score of districts by party control

Today, current control If Republicans lost all swing districts
Democratic Republican Democratic Republican
Average credit score 634 635 636 631
Median credit score 644 642 646 639

 


Bottom line

On the brink of the 2018 midterm elections, Credit Karma’s analysis suggests the future makeup of the House rests not in the hands of those who are struggling economically, but instead with some of the most financially stable congressional districts in the country — regardless of political affiliation — despite the narrative that followed the 2016 election. What’s more, with a majority of the highest-scoring Republican-held districts falling into the “swing” category, House Republicans stand to lose their most financially stable districts in the coming days if those categories switch blue.  


Methodology

To conduct this analysis, Credit Karma took a look at the most recent TransUnion credit report for users who had logged onto Credit Karma in the 5 months leading up to October 19, 2018. We then used aggregated ZIP code data from these credit reports to match groups of users to specific congressional districts across the country. Once we had sorted these groups into their respective congressional districts, we used the remaining information in their TransUnion credit reports to calculate the average and median values for all the data points listed in the article, including their VantageScore 3.0 credit scores. 

The “swing” status was determined by the district-by-district ratings assigned by The Cook Political Report’s 2018 House Race Ratings. Districts considered “toss-ups” or “lean” districts were classified as “swing” in Credit Karma’s analysis; districts considered “likely” to vote for one party or the other were grouped with the “safe” districts. All percentages and figures have been rounded to the nearest whole.

We used 2017 median income estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau, which may not represent a true median for the users in our population.


About the author: Aseem Shukla is Credit Karma’s data journalism analyst. He is passionate about extracting interesting stories from complex data, and loves to tie trends in credit and consumer finance to the larger world. When he isn’… Read more.