February 16th, 2010
05:29 PM ET
13 years ago

CNN Poll: Anti-incumbent fever at record high

Washington (CNN) - Only a third of U.S. voters think that most members of Congress deserve to be re-elected this year, according to a new national poll. That's the lowest number ever recorded for that question in a CNN survey.

The CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll, released Tuesday, indicates that only 34 percent feel that current federal lawmakers deserve re-election, with 63 percent saying no.

Full results (pdf)

According to the survey, 51 percent feel their member of Congress should be re-elected - also an all-time low in CNN polling - while 44 percent say their representative doesn't deserve to be returned to office in November.

The numbers on both questions are even lower than in 1994, when an anti-incumbent fever helped Republicans win back control of both the House and the Senate from Democrats. The trend line on those questions goes back to 1991, when they were first asked.

"This is not a good year to be an incumbent, regardless of which party you belong to," said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "Voters seem equally angry at both Republicans and Democrats this year."

Fifty-six percent of people questioned in the survey say that most Democrats in Congress do not deserve to be re-elected. An equal amount also say that most congressional Republicans don't deserve re-election.

The poll suggests Americans are split when it comes to their vote this November, with 47 percent of registered voters saying they will support the Republican candidate in their district for the House of Representatives and 45 percent saying they will back the Democrat. Republicans trailed the Democrats by 6 points in November.

The voters' cool view of incumbents of both parties "may hurt the Democrats more because there are more Democratic incumbents," Holland said. "It's a change from 2006, when voters concentrated their anger at GOP members of Congress."

The generic ballot question asked respondents if they would vote for a Democrat or Republican in their congressional district, without naming any specific candidates.

The Democrats currently hold a 255-178 advantage in the House, with two vacant seats that the Democrats once held. Republicans need to win 40 seats to take back control of the chamber.

While President Barack Obama is not up for re-election this November, he will be in 2012 if he decides to run for a second term. According to the poll, 44 percent of registered voters say Obama deserves re-election, with 52 percent saying the president does not deserve a second term in office. The survey also indicates that 49 percent of Americans approve of the job Obama's doing as president, with half of the public disapproving of his job in the White House.

"One problem Obama faces may be the perception that Obama is not a middle-class kind of guy," Holland said. "Only 4 percent of Americans describe themselves as upper class. But a 45 percent plurality say that Obama belongs to the upper class, with 42 percent saying he is from the middle class and 12 percent describing him as working class."

The CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll was conducted Friday through Monday, with 1,023 adult Americans, including 954 registered voters, questioned by telephone. The survey's sampling error is plus or minus 3 percentage points both for all Americans and for registered voters.

Filed under: 2010 • CNN poll • Congress
soundoff (140 Responses)
  1. Sarah, Northern Colorado

    If both sides would stop it with their pissing match, with the American people being the losers no matter who wins, perhaps we wouldn't want to replace the abundance of Congress with lack of regard for party.

    February 16, 2010 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  2. jw

    I agree 100% with what Senator Evan Byah did and said regarding his retirement from the senate.
    He expressed exactly what most Americans are currently feeling about the way congress is operating these days. (or not operating)

    February 16, 2010 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  3. Jim

    Why doesn't any of the media talk about abolishing the Lifetime Salary and Medical Benefits that our Congressmen receive? How can these people vote on jobs and healthcare for the American Public when they can not relate?

    February 16, 2010 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  4. E

    People are never supportive of the incumbents in bad times. They want instant fixes and kneejerk reactions instead of thought out solutions that take time to work.

    February 16, 2010 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  5. Shawn Johnson

    Forget what party you belong to, not one of these crooks represent anyone but themselves any longer. It's time to wake up America and TAKE OUT THE TRASH!!! The only thing that Randolph Carter left off his list was the disbanding of the Fed. Remember on election day that you are Americans first and throw EVERY incumbant out of office no matter what thier affiliation. That is the only way to break the good ol boy network that has been strangling this country for years.

    February 16, 2010 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  6. Michael L.

    My opinion is we should find ways to cut cost. The president does not have power to legislate. He can veto but the American people who are supposed to be represented through our elected officials’ can override his veto. Unfortunate it appears that our representatives represent themselves and not us. The president and his executive orders are becoming more objectionable to me. I am uncomfortable with BIG government. The states should be left to govern based off of what the constitution has established as the role for the federal government. We have too many programs that don't pay for themselves. We need to teach people to fish and stop feeding them. We may have perpetuated needy people through our government sponsored programs that were set up to assist not supplement income on a permanent basis. Pay our debt back and let’s work towards becoming a nation that is respected because we are responsible. We might want to avoid foreign entanglements unless absolutely necessary. We had a past president warn us against what we are doing now. It cost us too much financially and more importantly it is costing us Americans. Has America become too big for its britches? These are just a few thoughts and are entirely opinions that are expressed by Mike Leddy. Please forgive me for any grammatical errors.

    February 16, 2010 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  7. CommonSense09

    First of all, if the people would give Obama and his team what they need to work and affect change then poll after he plans have had the time to work or fell rather....dang, there seem to be no rush while Bush screwed the America people for 8 freaking years! and now everyone is in an uproar....that's not far from either side! Not to mention the republicans are playing crazy politics with the country, economy, jobs and the list goes on!!!!!

    February 16, 2010 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  8. Larry Blom

    In the end, will it be the bullies who win out? I fear so. Trouble is, it's we-the-people (remember us?) who are the real losers in all this childish republican gamesmanship. Oh, we'll vote the bums out-to be replaced by whom? More tea-bag irrelevance?

    February 16, 2010 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  9. Seen it before

    Attributed to one of our founding fathers... "That government governs best that governs least." Therefore, I'm happy to see gridlock in congress. A lot less of a chance of getting screwed by either party.

    Another quote: "You'll never find a more wretched hive of scum and villiany!" – Obi-wan Kenobe...

    Lastly: The opposite of progress is CONGRESS.

    February 16, 2010 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  10. Motorman47

    If term limits are good enough for the President, they should be enacted for all of Congress. Of course, we all know not in our lifetime.

    There are many voters in our state of Maryland that are so disappointed with our Congressman, who recently admmitted he signed a bill he did not read, that if an election were held today, he would be among the unemployed. Unfortuantely for us, he will have a retirement and health insurance program that we the working class can only dream of.

    February 16, 2010 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  11. tony

    With all the complaining, sounds like most folks want to go back to the most corrupted (Bush-Chaney) administration of our life time.

    February 16, 2010 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  12. ed

    To the comment by "how's that nonunion made Toyota workin for ya", My non union made Toyota and Honda are working out a whole lot better than the last union made Chevrolet I had. It disintegrated at 47,000miles. Just look at the reliability ratings of all cars and see whether union made cars or non union made cars fare better over the last 10 years. And I've listened to Rush for 15 years and he is right far more than any of the main stream news media like CNN.

    February 16, 2010 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  13. beverly

    Take my vote. I am voting all of them OUT. We need everyday average americans who understand the struggles we are all going through. I'm voting for any new person who agrees with me. I'm tired for paying for salaries and benefits for people who could never get a job in the real world. They are a bunch of do-nothings. Would your boss keep you on if you did nothing?????

    February 16, 2010 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  14. kapechi2

    DUMP ALL INCUMBENTS IN THE NEXT 3 ELECTIONS. Put in Independents and save America from the polluted 2 party system that has us all sinking. Our economy is beyond repair for the forseeable future as long as a Socialist is in the WH. We need American businesses to begin exporting and consumers to STOP BUYING Chinese and Saudi IMPORTS!!! Permit natural gas engines to be purchased as a factory option and free us from Middle East OIL!

    February 16, 2010 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  15. Hugo

    It was just a matter of time, now all we have to do is make sure the newly elected strip the ousted elitist politicos of their self appointed life time taxpayer funded benefits. They all need to rely on social security and medicare for their retirements and COBRA for their healthcare, let them get a little taste of what being a constituent is all about!

    February 16, 2010 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
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