February 16th, 2010
05:29 PM ET
12 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. Scott Stodden

    I think its a problem in Washington and for the Democrats when Senator Evan Byah (D-Indiana) says he won't seek re-election because he's tired of Congress and Washington. I am so proud and appallud Senator Byah for taking a stand and saying enough is enough and nothing is getting done! We all need to take a serious look at the Obama administration and Congress and the Senate when we're losing good politicans!

    Scott Stodden (Freeport,Illinois)

    February 16, 2010 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  2. Glenn Koons

    I looked at the poll very closely. It appears CNN wanted us to think that the public looks at politics on an equal level of distain. But, but, the fact is, the Dems have huge majorities and they are in charge. It is their policies that are being rejected. My guess is that though 39% of the Pubs deserve re-election, that is not quite an accurate result. Also, Ras,, Zog, Cook, Battleground are far better polls for accuracy and when they ask the same questions, then perhaps we will all see if the public is just angry or angry at Obama's policies because he lied.

    February 16, 2010 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  3. Randolph Carter, I'm no expert but....

    Hmmm... Ya think? They can redeem themselves, though. All they need to do is:

    2 term limits for all legislators

    Public campaign finance with each candidate getting an equal amount

    Candidates must live in their district for 3 years before being eligible to run for office

    Kick all, and I mean ALL lobbyists, PACs and other special interest groups out of DC

    Get rid of the fillibuster

    If they would just do this, there would be hope for democracy in the US of A. Unfortunately, it will never happen. Our congress critters are way too greedy. Have a nice day!

    February 16, 2010 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  4. notfooledbydistractions

    They haven't been doing their jobs – they were elected to do the work of and for the American people. They have been working for the lobbyists and big business – that's not what they were elected to do. In light of that, why shouldn't they all go?

    February 16, 2010 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  5. Hows that nonunion made Toyota workin for ya?

    Both parties are cleaning house,lets dump the radio trash and get rid of Rush the liar.

    February 16, 2010 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  6. Mike in MN

    Antil-incumbent fever works out well for Republicans. There are currently more Democrats than Republicans in Congress. So if they were all voted out and replaced by the opposite party, Republicans would than be the majority party. Sounds good to me.
    I like the numbers too that show only 44% want Obama re-elected and 52% say they want him to go.
    I'm sure Obama will consider this poll just more evidence that the people he represents are just to stupid to know what is best for them.
    That is why we are hearing more from Obama's White House staff that Obama may start using executive orders to do what he wants and bypass Congress. Hail King Obama and screw the will of the people and the constitution.

    February 16, 2010 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  7. Peter

    NEWSFLASH: Congress does not represent the interest of U.S. citizens; rather, members of Congress represent either their own interests or the interests of large corporations. The Supreme Court made this more than apparent with its most recent decision endowing companies with Constitutional rights. It amazes me how people on most online discussion lists refuse to acknowledge this. This kind of corruption transcends political party, so don't try to blame one side or the other. Most of the bickering on CNN's online discussions lists suggests that people are more interested in perpetuating the partisanship that has stymied Congress. Right, left, republican, democrat, independent–no matter how we identify, we must band together to ensure that this kind of corporate corruption does not result in the erosion or undermining of our Constitution.

    February 16, 2010 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  8. Danny

    To Doug: I live in a southern red state and I find there are just as many rude people as their are nice people. Maybe you can tell me your secret so I can tell the liberals from the conseratives? You must be a psychic to be able to tell them apart just by looking at them, or are you relyng on some physical trait, such as skin color or their accent, to make your determination?

    February 16, 2010 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  9. Chris - MN

    Seems like this is fertile ground for campaign reform.

    February 16, 2010 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  10. Joseph

    Comeon, Get the story straight! It is not anti-incombent! It is anti-the democratic congress and anti-OB's big-Government spending and socialist policies. Just look at the tide that is turning one-side, remember VA, NJ, and MA elections?

    February 16, 2010 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  11. Independent One

    We are in need of a THIRD Party and it is NOT the tea baggers......They are too partisan and mean spirited

    February 16, 2010 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  12. Mike in MN

    I'm betting that it would be a real plus to one of the political parties if they promised to pass term limits on the House and Senate.
    So far that is a idea I have heard many Tea Party patriots support.
    Since the Tea Party movement has a lot more incomon with Republicans than Democrats, it is much more likely the Republican party would support term limits than the Democrats. And besides liberal/progressive Democrats think they are elite and smarter than the average citizen and deserve to Lord it over us and tell us what to do. So why would a good liberal/progressive ever support term limits that would deny the common citizen the privelge of being ruled by them.

    February 16, 2010 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  13. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA

    Vote all their butts out of office. I know how I'll be voting in November. Your name better not beon the ballot if your part if the Party of Obstruction.

    February 16, 2010 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  14. kapinatl

    I just find it so interesting how so many incumbents are tired of DC right now. When did all this fatigue begin? Before or after January 20, 2009!!

    February 16, 2010 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  15. Jeff

    Isn't anti-incumbent fever how the dems took control? Obama's campaign focused on his not being Bush.

    In regards to Scott Stodden (12:33 16-Feb), unfortunately, the good ones are the ones that are leaving. If only the ones from both fringes would follow suit.

    February 16, 2010 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  16. terry

    Just like 94', but Obama says "the difference this time is I'm here," ha ha ha ha, what a joke, doesn't this clown realize this backlash is because of him? I guess his style of talking down to the american people just doesn't cut the mustard. I mean seriously, we have a president from Indonesia who thinks he is God, and can tell everyone what it means to be an american? These midterms will be nothing like 94' they will be much much worse. Thanks Obama way to go!

    February 16, 2010 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  17. Sandra, Atlanta

    I think you missed one key point of Byah's comments. The final straw was when those guys (primarily Republicans) who supported the forming of a group to recommend how to balance the deficit suddenly turned against it.
    I'm not taking up for the major leftists either but it's not all about the Obama administration either. Let's have a little more honesty instead of hypocrisy. I applaud Evan Byah for his decision. Too bad my representative (Saxby Chambliss) doesn't do the same.

    February 16, 2010 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  18. Doreen

    Why does David Gergin continue to expound that the Republicans will take control of the Senate and possibly the House? The poll shows that no one is happy with either side - Democratic or Republican. So, tell me David, why are you claiming that the Republicans will win more seats? The last thing I knew there were many Republicans leaving the Senate also. So, WHY? You are not making one bit of sense to me. Please explain, besides this is what happens when there is a big turnover, WHY?

    February 16, 2010 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  19. Thomas

    Regarding the current political situation of deliberate misinformation and roadblocks, I am beginning to wonder about the current status of our democracy. Since the Supreme Court put George W into the White House, even as he had less actual votes, it made me wonder where the actual citizen stands in the food chain of national entitlement. Now that a corporation can claim that it is a person – If one CEO can spend millions of dollars to promote the “right” candidate, what candidates will be allowed to win? My second question is: When the special interest funded candidate, is in office, will it be the lobbyist who tells the elected stooge what laws he or she may or may not vote for? Will it be the lobbyist who writes the bills? Are corporations and lobbyists the two top tiers of our democratic system? Is the American voter (“consumer”) the bottom feeder in this food chain of political priorities? In the case of healthcare, is it true that only if there is a middleman involved between the doctor and patient, entitled to profit, only then will the taxpayers be allowed to have healthcare reform? My last question is – is it too late to ask these questions?

    February 16, 2010 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  20. Total BS

    We must vote out everyone in the GOP !!! All they do is obstruct..THE PARTY OF NO MUST GO !!!!!!

    February 16, 2010 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  21. wimsy

    Why do so-called journalists never learn: people think Congress should not be re-elected - except for their own congressman, who they think is doing a good job. If this were not the case, how come 90% of incumbents get re-elected? Study after study shows that people grasp issues from whatever they've read, but don't know enough about any issue to comment intelligently. They therefore lash out at the unnamed "crooks" but keep re-electing their own crook.

    February 16, 2010 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  22. stormerF

    Actually only about 35% think congress should be re-elected,that leaves 2/3rds that want someone new,who listens to the American Tax Payers,and will stop the wasteful spending,just to get re-elected.

    February 16, 2010 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  23. Debbie

    Not just anti-incumbant but anti-party. Neither the Dems/GOP have done anything for the people. The Dems couldn't agree on the sky being blue, and the GOP has one plan that they used for 8 years and would go back to. So neither party has anything for the people.

    February 16, 2010 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  24. mishmarsh

    Mike in MN

    you probably voted for Bush...thought he was different ehhhh?

    February 16, 2010 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  25. Bill Whitwell

    It is time that WE THE PEOPLE stand up and say "No more". Time for our Congress to be changed. Time for a ReVOTElution!. Send the incumbents home. I don't care if they are good or not. Gone.... everyone of them. We then insist that the newly elected people do two things first. 1) Lobby reform so that big money can no longer control the politicians and 2) Finance reform so that each politician is limited to a certain amount of money with strict penalties for breaking the rule. Those politicians who are good can run again the next time, but will have to operate under the new rules. Pass the word.... ReVOTElution! Tell Congress their time is up!

    February 16, 2010 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
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