Your election questions answered

US Congress dome Image copyright AFP

As the US gets ready for next week's mid-term elections, our North America editor Jon Sopel answers your questions about what's at stake, on our BBC World News Facebook page.

This is an edited version of the session.

The full Q&A can be found on Facebook.


Why are facts so irrelevant in US elections and why is the reporting and campaigning so shameless?Question from Jakob Wassmann

Jon Sopel: Facts aren't irrelevant. It's just that they're contested. And that's why so much time is spent on rebuttal. I think the campaigning is HUGELY sophisticated, using the latest ways of measuring opinion. But it's not old-fashioned tub thumping.


Why is the BBC obsessed with elections in the US? Why other countries don't get the same air time? Allen

JS: Not sure that's fair. We are pretty obsessed by elections and democracy - and I say this having been sent to cover elections recently in India and France. But America is the richest country in the world, the most powerful. What the people decide matters. Without passing any comment on the virtues/shortcomings of either men, the election of George W Bush was significant, just as Barack Obama's election was significant. And what they do in office makes a difference.

Special report - US elections 2014


What will change if the Republicans take control of the Senate? Kev Greenhalgh

JS: Well, the world will keep on spinning. And the real answer is "who knows". But if they're smart they will be thinking only about how to create a good impression for the general election in 2016 when the presidency is up for grabs. Do well, be constructive, set a clear agenda - and there may be big rewards. So don't automatically buy into the idea that it will all be gridlock and impasse.

What will a Republican Senate mean?


Would a Republican-controlled Senate intensify partisan strife or force both parties to work together more? Shawschenk Redemption

JS: I already hate the answer I'm going to give you - because it is an "only time will tell" answer. There is the potential that it will intensify strife. Although, on the strife-o-meter, we're already pretty much at 8,000 revs. So how much worse can it get? What we might see a lot more of is the presidential veto. But let's face it, it has hardly been functional and harmonious these past couple of years. Anyone remember the government shutdown?

Image copyright AP
Image caption Republican Senator Mitch McConnell is currently minority leader of the US Senate

Yeah, when are we going to remove money from the process so everyone is represented, not just those who can buy votes?Leanna Devonfo

JS: Great question. Reminds me of Churchill's comment about democracy - it's the worst of all systems until you consider the alternatives (someone is going to give me the accurate version of that) - money in politics is ugly, has the power to corrupt, can be sleazy. But I am not sure state funding of political parties is good either - because then what motives do the politicians have to connect with the people they seek to represent? But I don't like it becoming like an arms race. Although I did enjoy the spectacle at the last US presidential election of one or two people spending MILLIONS, and getting nothing in return for it.

Money in politics: More than a game


Doesn't having elections for the House every two years effectively put the US on a constant election cycle and actually prevent things getting done? Richard Speight

JS: When I first studied this, I thought it was bonkers. Just totally nuts. Because of course the impetus then is to be permanently campaigning, and not making long-term decisions. But I think potentially worse than this is the way it appears that some Congressional districts have been carved, so that an incumbent can never be beaten. No elected representative should either feel they have a job for life, nor should they feel they have to be on a permanent election footing.


Is it possible to impeach Mr Obama? Sonja Brego

JS: Haven't seen it on the ballot for next Tuesday. Isn't impeachment for when there has been serious maladministration, or corruption - am not sure I like the idea of impeachment being bandied around, just because people disagree with a president's policies. You dislike someone's policies - beat them at the election, but don't resort to constitutional last resorts.

Image copyright AP
Image caption US President Barack Obama is not currently under threat of impeachment

As a Canadian with investments in the American healthcare industry, will a Republican victory spell disaster for Obamacare? Freddy Tang

JS: I wonder. Here's what I predict - there will be a lot of huffing and puffing, but I don't see them blowing Obamacare over. For all its faults, for all that some find it ideologically repellent there are millions who've signed up for it, so I suspect it will stay in more or less its present shape and form.


Do you think that a Republican-dominated Senate would push for war? Bello Eshiofune Ismail

JS: Push for war where? But even with a Republican Congress, there is still only one commander-in-chief - and that is the president. So I'm not sure it will make that much difference.


How much do [mid-term results] affect the outcome of the presidential election in 2016? Deepak Uniyal

JS: This could be an essay rather than a quick answer. Clinton took a pasting in the 1994 midterms, and then went on to win in 1996. Ditto Obama in 2010 when he took a "shellacking" as he put it. But the American people are suffering the "six-year itch", when disillusionment sets in - and it is interesting the extent to which Democrats, with their eye on the 2016 presidential elections, are putting maximum distance between themselves and the president. The man who was once credited as having the Midas touch, now finds his presence is not wanted in many races.


What will Republicans like Chris Christie be looking for their party to achieve to maximise their opportunity in 2016? George Chiverton

JS: Well, as you well know there are different strands of Republican opinion: social conservatives, libertarians, establishment Republicans (I would put Christie in that group) - so depending on where you are you will be looking at the sort of issues that resonate. But irrespective of which strand of Republican opinion you represent you will be looking at how you are doing with women, young people and Hispanics - those groups have been a real weak point for the Republicans in recent years. Oh, and one other thing. All Republicans will want to see how well their machine performs against the Democratic Party's, which has been far more effective in the last few elections.

The social conservative showdown

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Chris Christie is Republican governor of New Jersey

Are the Obama administration's successes with the economy and employment going to be recognized in voting? And will turnout be any different than it usually is in mid-terms (dismal)? Gary Laugel

JS: Just for future reference - never, ever give a politician a two-part question - they will only ever answer the part they want to! Anyway, I am not a politician. So part one: you look at where America was in 2008 and where it is now, and if as Clinton used to say, "It's the economy stupid", then you would think Obama would be sitting pretty. Unemployment has been falling consistently, growth last quarter was 4.6%, consumer confidence is rising. But I suspect he's not going to be rewarded - because politicians tend not to get credit for putting something right that was wrong. He's merely re-established normality. And it is frustrating this administration and the government in the UK, which is also performing well - they are going through a voterless recovery. Now part two. Probably no. Phew! That was brief and to the point.

Five things to know about US election

That's a wrap! Thanks for joining us! Be sure to come back here on Tuesday for our Election Day coverage.

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