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Redefining Rock Bottom: Another Scary Poll For Congress

Posted: October 15, 2013

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Voters always say they want to "throw the bums out," except when it comes to their own representative. But now, against the backdrop of federal government shutdown, a potential default and general Washington dysfunction, there are signs the public is ready to buck that axiom.

Cloudy skies shroud the Capitol on Monday. Congress is at an impasse as Democrats and Republicans remain at odds over the crises gripping the nation.

Cloudy skies shroud the Capitol on Monday. Congress is at an impasse as Democrats and Republicans remain at odds over the crises gripping the nation. J. Scott Applewhite

It's one of the oldest axioms in politics: Voters always say they want to "throw the bums out," except when it comes to their own representative. That's why the re-election rate for House members is typically over 90 percent.

Heading into the 2014 midterms, that long-standing rule appears to be holding true. But against the backdrop of the federal government shutdown, a potential default and general dysfunction in Washington, there are signs it's reaching a straining point.

According to a new Pew Research poll released Tuesday, anti-incumbency sentiment among voters is a high point — and even the local congressman isn't immune to the anger. A record-low 48 percent of registered voters want their own representative to win re-election in 2014, while 38 percent said they want to see their representative in Congress defeated — the highest percentage in more than two decades.

A record-high 74 percent of registered voters said most members of Congress should not be re-elected next year; just 18 percent of registered voters said most representatives should be re-elected.

In November 2009 ­— the most comparable point during the 2010 election cycle, when 58 incumbents lost re-election — 53 percent of those Pew surveyed thought most representatives should not be re-elected, while 52 percent thought their own representative deserved another term in Congress.

Pew found that Democrats were slightly more likely to say their representative should be re-elected (54 percent) than Republicans (47 percent) and independents (43 percent).

The poll was conducted during the second week of the shutdown from Oct. 9-13.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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