CNN Poll: Time to clean house in Congress?
August 9th, 2011
11:50 AM ET
3 years ago

CNN Poll: Time to clean house in Congress?

Washington (CNN) – Need more evidence that Americans are extremely angry at Congress?

Well, here you go: According to a new national survey, for the first time ever most Americans don't believe their own member of Congress deserves re-election.

Read full results (pdf).

And the CNN/ORC International Poll released Tuesday also indicates that while Republicans may have had the upper hand in the recent battle over raising the debt ceiling, they appear to have lost a lot of ground with the public and the party's unfavorable rating is now at an all time high.

Only 41 percent of people questioned say the lawmaker in their district in the U.S. House of Representatives deserves to be re-elected - the first time ever in CNN polling that that figure has dropped below 50 percent. Forty-nine percent say their representative doesn't deserve to be re-elected in 2012. And with ten percent unsure, it's the first time that a majority has indicated that they would boot their representative out of office if they had the chance today.

"That 41 percent, in the polling world, is an amazing figure. Throughout the past two decades, in good times and bad, Americans have always liked their own member of Congress despite abysmal ratings for Congress in general," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "Now anti-incumbent sentiment is so strong that most Americans are no longer willing to give their own representative the benefit of the doubt.  If that holds up, it could be an early warning of an electorate that is angrier than any time in living memory."

As for all members of Congress, the poll indicates only a quarter of the public says most members of Congress deserve to be re-elected.

A lot of that anger seems directed toward the GOP.  According to the survey, favorable views of the Republican party dropped eight points over the past month, to 33 percent. Fifty-nine percent say they have an unfavorable view of the Republican party, an all-time high dating back to 1992 when the question was first asked.

The poll indicates that views of the Democratic party, by contrast, have remained fairly steady, with 47 percent saying they have a favorable view of the Democrats and an equal amount saying they hold an unfavorable view.

"The Democratic party, which had a favorable rating just a couple of points higher than the GOP in July, now has a 14-point advantage over the Republican party," adds Holland.

The same pattern holds for the parties' leaders in Congress.  House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, the top Democrat in the chamber, have never had great numbers, but the public's view of them have remained essentially unchanged in the wake of the debt ceiling debate.  But House Speaker John Boehner's favorable rating has dropped 10 points, and his unfavorable rating is up to 40 percent, a new high for him.  On the Senate side, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell isn't faring much better - his unfavorable rating is 39 percent, a seven-point increase since July.

The poll indicates that Americans' views of the tea party movement have also turned more negative, with 51 percent saying they have a negative view of the two-year-old limited government and anti-tax grassroots movement, with favorable ratings dropping from 37 percent down to 31 percent. Freshman House Republicans elected with major support from tea party activists were instrumental in keeping any tax increases out of the agreement to raise the nation's debt ceiling.

The CNN poll was conducted by ORC International on August 5-7, with 1,008 adult Americans questioned by telephone. The survey was conducted both before and after Friday night's downgrading of the country's credit rating by Standard and Poor's. The poll's overall sampling error is plus or minus three percentage points.

– CNN Deputy Political Director Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report.


Filed under: CNN/ORC poll • Congress • Debt • Deficit • Economy
soundoff (343 Responses)
  1. GOP hates Middle Class

    Since the GOP has declared war on the middle class, middle class will return the favor in 2012.

    August 9, 2011 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  2. gt

    the problem is we need terms limits ... some in the house have been there for decades... it and the senate look like a old folks home... dingel..come on thats nuts ...these are not for life .. we need new blood both parties...

    August 9, 2011 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  3. Rudy NYC

    Cleaning out the Congress would probably do more to destabilize the country than to help it run better. Somehow, as it good as it might initially sound, replacing the whole of Congress with an entirely new set of faces who would have to learn how run the US government from their bootstratps would not help.

    Replacing Congress is treating the symptoms and not the illness. The problem is identifying what causes members to behave the way they do. Money.

    We need to take the money out of politics. But, we are not able to. The SCOTUS ruled that money matters. Maybe we should replace the entire SCOTUS while we are at it. The "Citizens United" ruling is one of the worst to be handed down. I feel the ruling itself was bought and paid for.

    August 9, 2011 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  4. Cosmo

    Too bad we do not have the right to recall these people. I am sure that the Rove/Armey dirty trick misinformation machine is working ovetime on damage control so that by November 2012 the airwaves will be filled with informercials, paid for lies and friendly news network sotries on how the GOP saved America. Just wait and watch it unfold, but keep an airline sickness bag handy.

    August 9, 2011 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  5. Fair is Fair

    I've been faithfully voting against my incumbent representative for years, but he continues to get reelected. But hey... it's The People's Republic of Massachusetts after all.

    August 9, 2011 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  6. The Day of Financial Reckoning is HERE - The Great Democrat Welfare Society Ends

    If America wants to continue spending TRILLIONS we have to borrow, great more andmore government entitlement prgams like Obamacare and end up in bankruptcy with rioting in the streets, then vote Democrat.

    If America wants to remain viable as a country with sound fiscal management and a vibrant economy, then vote Republican.

    The choice is clear and easy.

    August 9, 2011 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  7. SuperD

    As long as it is the socialist, communist, Democrats, then it's probably a good idea. We need to purge these people and their destructive ideas. That's part of the problem with compromise on the debt deal. You don't compromise when all one side has to offer is more of the same (Taxes and spending). Thats why the deficit deal went down the way it did.

    August 9, 2011 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  8. Me

    I can see the bumper stickers now..."I want my country back – from the tea partiers!"

    August 9, 2011 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  9. Rick McDaniel

    You betcha.

    Time to send incumbents packing, and reduce terms and establish term limits, on Congress. We should have no one in Congress more than 8 yrs. and ideally no more than 4 yrs. They need to concentrate on what's best for the country, and NOT what's best for them, personally.

    It is especially important to notice who, among the Democrats, is in total denial of reality.........and many Dems are.......as evidenced by the Dem Senators "investigation" into the downgrade. That is so PATHETIC, is is simply ridiculous.

    August 9, 2011 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  10. Robert Jay

    I am not a true believer in polls. But I do lean to believing this one. I am sick of partisan politics regardless of party. Party before country is CRAP. Look at some of these party "leaders". The districts and states they represent represent the worst of America – poverty – poor health care – high taxes on the middle class – no taxes on the rich -(oh I'm sorry "job creators" you know the ones who got bonehead bushs tax breaks (like pharma companies but now can't produce the medicines they got a tax break on – LOTS of progress there!) and then the Banking industry and the 08 bail out -just look at all the benefits we got from that bush boondoogle / right up their bonehead ones "savings and loan bail out" "you betcha!" If it stinks it's partisan and if it's partisan it's REPUBLICAN

    August 9, 2011 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  11. MrBB

    Right, you can say it all you like, The down grade happend because the Republicans didn't hold Dems feet to the fire. Only two people should be held accountable. Barack Obama and Harry Reid. Both are responsible for this mess. S&P has already stated that if the original plan passed by the house had been signed into law, the downgrade would not have happened. Olde Harry refused to even debate that bill on the floor of the Senate. Nevada, WAKE UP and get rid of Harry.

    August 9, 2011 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  12. Dixon Yard

    Regarding the question of term limits, those that apply to the position of President should apply to congressmen and senators as well! One to two terms should be the limit.

    August 9, 2011 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  13. DAK

    Vote ALL the Republicans and the TEA Party people out of office then send them all to Gitmo for crimes against the country. Every last one of them needs to pay for their crimes against the economy. If they were honestly worried about the country, that would be different but they have said since 2008 their main goal, their NUMBER ONE thing to do (no matter the consequences or who gets hurt) is to make President Obama a failure. AT ALL COSTS! These people would sell this country down the river to accomplish this goal and they do not care one bit for doing what's right for the country, just what is right for their party. Totally unacceptable and they all need to go in 2012.

    August 9, 2011 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  14. Black

    That is a joke. I guess it was because the Democats did such a great job when they controlled both the House and Senate with Obama for two years – haha. In my area anger is directed at the President and the Democrats. Its all according to where you live but I travel for work in southern states TX, OK, AR, LA, MS, AL and Fl and it is all pretty much the same. I am sure if I was in PA, NY, IL, NJ, MA it would be opposite as they love the entitlement state.

    August 9, 2011 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  15. john bonds

    if this country is to be preserved as we know it the news outlets local and national had better start informing of the facts so we can make sound decision at the election polls

    August 9, 2011 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  16. Miguel chacon

    i don't think the problem would be solved by term limits I believe the people electing the representatives every two years should vote with the country in mind

    August 9, 2011 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  17. Deeb

    Surprise...surprise. Listen up boys, we will not forget the debt ceiling circus. 2012 can't come soon ENOUGH!!! Let's get these clowns packing!!

    August 9, 2011 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  18. beth

    Time to clean house...so soon after the mess arrived. guess the tea partiers are jumping ship

    August 9, 2011 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  19. Sgt Schultz

    My Republican Congressman is totally useless...even other Republicans tell me so. I am in a Red district that hardly ever votes Democrat. Although since even here the Conservatives voted for OBAMA '08...then you just never know. Hopefully these district will turn-off Fox News propaganda channel and start voting based on facts.

    August 9, 2011 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  20. Charlie in Maine

    There are three groups to blame for this:
    1. The Tea Party for forcing the Bonhner out of good faith negotiation.
    2. The GOP for letting this monster they created try to kill the economy
    3. Anyone who agrees with the first two and did not bother to vote in the last election.
    All that is needed for evil to win is for decent folks to do nothing. Don't be one of them in the next election.

    August 9, 2011 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  21. Winston Smith

    Term limits will have at least 3 positive outcomes: 1) rid the country of career politicians who have benefitted from their position at the expense of the vast majority of people of this country; 2) reduce dramatically the influence of lobbyists, and therefore corporations, on the business of the people because relationships between elected officials and lobbyists typically take cultivation and time, which term limits will preclude; 3) bring to Congress new and fresh ideas and an agenda that is more closely in line with constituents because the focus will be more on legislation to benefit the people rather re-election. One potential negative outcome will be the increased cost to the country of having to provide annuities and health benefits to a larger number of individuals who serve in Congress. Perhaps legislation related to how those benefits are calculated are distributed needs to be a part of any initiative to move forward with term limits.

    August 9, 2011 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  22. AZ DEM

    Not really surprising..in 2012 no one is safe and the fact that the GOP showed the nation that they believe the rich...sorry I meant "job creators" don't need loopholes eliminated because ANY tax increase is bad...ok thats fine lets keep giving individuals this lower rate. BUT the fact that these men and women WOULD NOT vote to end subsidies for oil companies who make billions of dollars each year but were willing to cut medicare and social security shows they are on the wrong side of the American people. Until they kick the Tea party out how can anyone vote for them knowing they don't give two craps about YOU.

    August 9, 2011 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  23. ST

    The problem is: people like to be in power. They campaign hard, I will do this, I will do that (remember last Nov. election). Once they are there, that is the end of the story. I get difficulties to understand how Boehner campaigned with tears that he is going to create jobs. Where are they now? He hasn't even talked about it. The last time he did so, was when he won, giving speech to people who voted him in, and assured them he is going to fulfil his promises.
    People need to wise up now and take note.

    August 9, 2011 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  24. Donald Reise

    Voting in inexperienced Freshman, immature, segregationist Tea-Party congress members into pubic office during one of the most difficult times in American Life & Politics has to be about the dumbest decision the American electorate has ever made.

    And look what you've done.

    August 9, 2011 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  25. nytw

    Hopefully, no incumbent will be re-elected in 2012.

    August 9, 2011 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
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