Time to throw my guy out of Congress?
October 16th, 2013
01:45 PM ET
11 months ago

Time to throw my guy out of Congress?

Washington (CNN) - It's conventional wisdom: Americans don't like Congress.

But when it comes time to vote, they usually don't throw their lawmaker out of office.

However, new polls indicate that times and perceptions about "throwing the bums out" may be changing.

Those same surveys, as well as a veteran political handicapper, also suggest that one year before the 2014 midterm elections, the shutdown may provide the Democrats an opportunity to win back the House.

The public is clearly angry over the two week-long partial federal government shutdown and how the talks to avert or end the shutdown and extend the nation's debt limit have been handled. And while polls suggest that more of the blame has been pointed at the Republicans in Congress rather than their Democratic counterparts or President Barack Obama, all sides are feeling the pain.

As history proves, House incumbents overwhelmingly get re-elected, even in wave years. Ninety-four percent of incumbents won in 2006, when Democrats re-took both houses of Congress. And 85% of incumbents won a return trip to Capitol Hill in 2010, when the GOP, thanks to a 63 seat pickup, took back control of the House. (Turnover in open seats where no incumbent was running accounted for the rest.)

But two new polls suggest that high retention rate could fall a bit in 2014.

While nearly three-quarters of registered voters questioned in a Pew Research Center poll released Tuesday said they would like to see most members of Congress defeated in the next election, there was an even more eye popping number: Thirty-eight percent said they didn't want their own representative re-elected. That's the highest level recorded in the more than two decades that Pew has been asking that question.

"At this stage in the 2010 and 2006 midterms, fewer wanted to see their own member of Congress defeated (29% in November 2009, 25% in September 2005)," according to a release from Pew Research.

The Pew poll isn't alone in finding a rise in voter dissatisfaction with their own representatives.

Sixty percent of people questioned in an NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey released last Thursday said if given the chance to vote to defeat and replace every single member of Congress, including their own representative, they would. That's the highest level ever recorded on that question in NBC News/Wall Street Journal polling.

"These polls show a strong anti-incumbent mood, but you have to remember that most incumbents represent relatively safe districts due to gerrymandering and will probably have a major cash advantage and few of them are likely to draw strong challengers," said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.

The NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, as well as handful of other national surveys conducted since the start of the shutdown on October 1, indicate the GOP brand taking a hit, with the party's favorable ratings and the approval ratings for congressional Republicans at or near historic lows.

Those numbers seem to be affecting the generic ballot, which asks if you would vote for the Democratic or Republican candidate in your congressional district without mentioning the names of any candidates.

The Democrats have an eight point advantage, 47%-39%, over the GOP in the NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey, a five point jump in a month. The Democrats were up nine points (43%-34%) in a Quinnipiac University survey conducted in the days just before the shutdown started, a five point increase since their previous poll in July. And the Democrats have a six-point advantage over the GOP in the Pew poll.

"An anti-incumbent mood tends to hurt the party that has more incumbents," added Holland "That would suggest that 2014 might be a bad year for Republicans, although with a Democrat in the White House, the anti-incumbent mood could be muddled."

The new polling also has a top non-partisan political handicapper changing his mind.

"Last week I observed that I hadn't yet seen 'compelling evidence' that a Democratic political wave could be developing. I can no longer say that after seeing the recently released NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll," Stuart Rothenberg, editor and publisher of the non-partisan Rothenberg Political Report, said Wednesday.

But the next election is still more than a year away. At this time in 2010 midterm election cycle, the Democrats had the advantage in the generic ballot.

"Surveys conducted in the middle of a major event may have a very short shelf life," cautioned Rothenberg. "After the current confrontation ends, voters could easily return to their default partisan positions – or the shutdown and debt ceiling showdown could have created a new partisan baseline from which the GOP can never recover."

And while the generic ballot is a useful gauge, it's important to remember that the battle for the House is a district-by-district fight, rather than a national race, and just 17 of the 232 House Republicans are in districts won by Obama in last year's election.

–CNN's Dan Merica contributed to this story.


Filed under: Congress
soundoff (195 Responses)
  1. Mike jones

    Looking at these posts, the problem is not the representative more than it is an inept and ill-informed electorate who would rather call people names than invest the intellectual capital to inform their position. Combine this with an agenda and profit driven media complex, and you have the perfect storm in taking down the country.

    October 16, 2013 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  2. Babyboomer

    Term Limits and no more rigged districts.

    October 16, 2013 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  3. Justice786

    Time to vote out all the tea party fanatics as well as as the extreme left fanatics. We need people in the middle (uncorrupted by PACs and special interest groups) who care about the long term well being of our country and are not looking towards the next elections. We also need to redistrict some of those electoral districts so that they are more heterogenous and balanced.

    October 16, 2013 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  4. Free Man in the Republic of Texas

    RINO John Cornyn caved to KING OBAMA out you go

    October 16, 2013 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  5. skarphace

    Before we start thinking seriously about term limits or voting all incu mbents out, we should consider the following. We had the largest turnover ever of the House in 2010. How did that work out?

    October 16, 2013 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  6. HB

    We don't congress, but we like our own congressman.

    October 16, 2013 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  7. ST

    They shutdown the government, its time to shut them down too, starting with the ring-leader Cruz.

    October 16, 2013 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  8. Brian A

    I like my freshman Rep. and Senator from Massachusetts. I will continue to support them. Time to throw out most of the others that caused the shutdown in the first place.

    October 16, 2013 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  9. ED1

    The spending continues to be out of control thanks to the ever more spending and passing bills that are not funded by the spend and tax Democrats.

    I guess all of our grandchildren will work for the Government to pay off the stupid bills they passed without the money to back them.

    October 16, 2013 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  10. fidgetwidget

    Yes, the tea baggers were the instigators, but they are a MINORITY. Why didn't the republican MAJORITY stand up and tell those brats to sit down and stfu? No, the reptwitlican majority is just as much at fault as the baggers. Remember that the next time you go to the polls. Oh, that's right, less than 40 percent of registered voters get off their bu++s and vote. See the problem here?

    October 16, 2013 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  11. Bill R

    TERM LIMITS. vote out who already has severed two terms. Why would anybody want to run for more if they weren't getting rich from it.

    October 16, 2013 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  12. Jackson

    I agree Cruz need to go along with The Speaker of the House.

    October 16, 2013 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  13. George Thomas Clark

    This country's problems are caused because we have elected a bunch of ideologues to Congress. Although these ideologues are a minority of elected officials, they are trying to bully the majority of elected officials. Their agenda is very simple: flat tax rates, privatization of social security and medicare, and the elimination of government regulatory agencies set up to protect health and safety of the general public. They lost a major battle on the government regulation of health care insurance and the increase in taxes for those earning more than $400,000 per year last January. This minority has seen their political agenda start to slip away. Thus, they have resorted to scorched earth tactics to force their will in Congress. There will be no reasonable bargaining with them. This current problem demonstrates their unfitness to hold public office. Yet this country has a root cause of this problem. It is the super wealthy willing to financial back the reelection of these stooges. We badly need to get rid of the huge funding of election campaigns. We would be better off if we started to vote for the person with the least campaign contributions. We would elect less ideologues.

    October 16, 2013 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  14. VotingBLKAmerican (yes were alive)

    Interesting, just an "I" statement here but does the American media ever admit to jerimandering in Congressional district and the problems they cause? I never here anything about in the media.

    October 16, 2013 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  15. GIUK

    The only people who have to go are the Tea Party. Disown any family member who's a Tea Party member and strike a blow for the US.

    October 16, 2013 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  16. Leucifer

    Would it be too much to ask people to individually critically examine their representatives?
    I don't think "throwing them all out" is the answer. I do think people need to take a good look at their voting records, look at what these people claim to represent (and how well they actually follow that, with logical explanation to support it), and in general, truly question whether these people are working for US and not just for themselves or a smaller block of voters that don't have our society's best interests at heart.

    October 16, 2013 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  17. Sandra Smith

    Throw Tea Party representatives out of Congress now! How dare they hold America hostage with shutting down government and not raising the ceiling. This is a country of honorable people not a bunch of low lives. Do we have to go through this every time the debt ceiling needs to be raised? I hope not! Disgraceful!

    October 16, 2013 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  18. Laura

    I happen to live in the same state as Speaker Boehner and there are a lot of Ohioans who are fed up with Boehner.

    October 16, 2013 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  19. skarphace

    Kenny: If my rep votes to open the Government I will do everything I can to end his career.

    Exactly what I have been saying. The Tea Party does not care about the ACA. The Tea Party wanted from the start to shut down the government, and they were using the threat of repealing the ACA as leverage to do so. Only when the Tea Party is disbanded or thrown out of the Republican party, or when the Democrats gain a majority in the House will we stop having to deal with these ignorant extremists.

    October 16, 2013 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  20. HB

    we should make house 4 years term, and 3 terms limit. Senate 2 terms limit. we should put some laws in place to prevent them from influence politics after they leave office.

    October 16, 2013 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  21. NPA Voter

    It's time to flush the TP.

    October 16, 2013 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  22. Expatriot

    You Americans as a group are the dumbest people on the planet. You bicker with each other, talk pass each other, don't listen each other, have the logical ability of a 2-year old, and keep voting in the same kind of person. Between reality shows that are for the mindless and the glorification of science teachers that manufacture meth, no wonder your Western civilization is in decline. You were once the most powerful people on the planet but now you are definitely the dumbest.

    October 16, 2013 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  23. Veritas

    Interesting in this game of chicken it was the Republicans who ultimately swerved rather than wreck the economy, while Democrats demonstrated they were willing to go all the way and sacrifice us all to keep Obamacare. Somehow I don't really find that very reassuring...

    October 16, 2013 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  24. Pam from Iowa

    Would love to throw all of them out to the curb, but when you know elections are rigged in their favor, what can you do?
    Drawing district lines based on whether or not a candidate will get the majority of the votes (gerrymandering – happens all the time!), and the more revolting fact that the rich are buying the elections makes it hard to fathom real change.

    October 16, 2013 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  25. BeadlesAz

    While it sounds good to 'throw all the bums out', the role of our Congress is vital and extremely complex. I will admit to a total disdain for the TP as to their ideologies. But, there is another problem with that 'group' and it has nothing to do with political party. It is the fact that this is a 'cohesive' group (it even has its own name)...but totally lacking in any respect for working toward a common goal. They have no legislative skills to broker deals. And, yes, deal-making is necessary, just as is compromise. It is like the TP developed a momentum that overtook reason and forethought. There are problems to deal with in how our Congress operates, but, a clean slate is not the answer. As a former member of the GOP, I would welcome the return of saner heads.

    October 16, 2013 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8