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. Jim in WA State

    I believe the "vote out all incumbents" movement may be the first wave of the tea party movement. These lame elected officials are far too corrupt to get anything done. Taxpayers are the last priority after padding their wallets and purses.

    February 16, 2010 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  2. jules sand-perkins

    NOT my sentiments, exactly.
    I am not dissatisfied with all incumbents from my Republican party: most have done a fine job in fighting to keep the country afloat.
    I think that there are many good Democrats in Congress along with the closet Marxists who are, along with the President, bringing their party down.

    February 16, 2010 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  3. mishmarsh

    @Scott Stodden

    Are you that gullible? Good Politician?

    February 16, 2010 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  4. Lilarose in U.S. of China

    Who cares????

    The current congress is doing nothing but destroying our country. We are no longer the world's superpower militarily or economically.

    Foreign countries own most of our country's land now. And we are in debt to China to the point we will never recover.

    I have been voting since JFK and I am tired of politics. I have voted in my last election.

    Just don't mess with my Social Security or Medicare, Congress. You do it and you will see silver emerge like you can't imagine.

    February 16, 2010 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  5. Truth-Bomb Thrower

    Ever mid-term election I hear the exact same thing. THROW THE BUMS OUT! THROW THE BUMS OUT!........but we never do. A few incumbents may get knocked off but most will keep their jobs (if you want to call Congress an actual job). The unthinking, uninformed American electorate is just simply not smart enough to break out of the spell of the media and elect good quality leadership. We're going to get what we deserve.

    February 16, 2010 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  6. Conservative Voice

    Want to keep your jobs?
    1> get rid of all federal government sponsered healthcare. it is in clear violation of the US Constitution.
    2> No more welfare, education, etc for illegals
    3> No more pork
    4> flat tax
    5> listen to the moderates in both parties

    February 16, 2010 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  7. drow

    and yet, all the whining won't help unless people VOTE, and AGAINST their incumbent representative. too often, voters dislike THOSE OTHER JERKS, but THEIR guy is a hero just trying to bring home the bacon. screw that noise. your guy sucks, too. dump them all.

    February 16, 2010 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  8. The Voice

    The sad part is the Democrats tried to work for the working class and the GOP the party of "NO" blocked any type of reform...

    Blue Cross just raised its premiums 35% in some states and more to come... a few years from now all those who's retirment savings and large percent of their incomes go to health insurance will look back and say we had a chance to fix it but the Republicans and the conservatives once again sided for Big Insurance and the corporations and once again the rich beat the poor.

    So sad what America has come to!

    February 16, 2010 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  9. Catherine Williams

    This is a laugh, accusing the President of being too high class for the working class, give me a break, P L E A S E!

    February 16, 2010 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  10. just sayin

    We're angry at both sides because they refuse to act like adults. The same can be said about many posters on this site. Please contribute an intelligent comment and try to refrain from childish name-calling. We all know the bad nicknames for President Obama, Former Governor Romney, Former President G. W. Bush, Speaker of the House Pelosi, etc... Is there something new you can contribute to the discussion?

    February 16, 2010 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  11. Anthony

    Cant blame the Obama administration... our government has sooo many moving parts, and soo many individual agendas, that yes, Congress and Senate brought themselves to a stand still due to party lines and obstructionist approaches. ALL of them, left or right, have acted immaturely and on their own behalves, not on those of the people who elected them.

    Its weird FINALLY having a president that actually represents the people, and it pains me watching him struggle against not only the Republicans, but Democrats too. They have all succumb to the back room dealings of Special Interests groups and Lobbyist. We are a society motivated by FEAR (something the Bush Admin did quite well) and unfortunately Obama administers with rational and logic.

    I think when we look back on history, it will be seen as the President who's own house didnt have the courage to fight for him and let him down, and who's opposing house did everything possible to put party before country (in some of the most disrespectful ways any president has had to endure).

    With politics like this, an economy and job rate like it is, and a bullying attitude on the international stage... you have to seriously ask yourself...

    We have some serious fixing (and growing up) to do.

    February 16, 2010 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  12. stan313

    I am not sure why people are worried about the republicans or demorcrats. neither party has this country's best interest at heart. we need people who know the constuition and have loyalyty to their constituents and what they want not what big money wants. are system is so corrupt i am afraid we need to throw it all out and rewrite some the election laws

    February 16, 2010 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  13. Mix

    Let's face it, November is not going to be a good time to be a politician in this country. Politics are going to get very mixed. And in the end, nothing will matter because neither party will have a super-majority in the senate and nothing will continue to get done.

    Dear Senate, you are broken. Go away.

    February 16, 2010 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  14. Sniffit

    "But, but, the fact is, the Dems have huge majorities and they are in charge. It is their policies that are being rejected."

    I know that's what you guys want to tell yourselves so you can sleep at night, but the reality is this: it's not policies that are being rejected. The general American public knows basically nothing about policies. Each side has them. Each side misrepresents them to the people. Each side then misrepresents the other sides' policies to the people. Then they both just gloss over everything and, e.g., you get some loudmouthed GOPer claiming that no Republican ideas were considered in the health care reform bill despite hundreds of their amenments being voted on and many of them passing (adding to how large the bill became btw). Or you get nonsense about "death panels" or Dems pulling the oft-repeated GOPer stunt from the past decade of holding back-room meetings and difficult to attend votes. No. It's not about policies, "my friend." It's about their behavior. The public is sick of their lying, their misinformation, their ideological rhetoric, their demogoguery and their partisan tantrums. The Capitol Building was never intended to house a freekin day care center for maladapted adults.

    February 16, 2010 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  15. BBB

    To blame any one party at this point is counter productive... they need to get over their party affiliations and works as one body. I don't care who was or could have been elected, to expect this mess to all go away with the wave of a hand was just plain wishful thinking. It's time that politicians put the citizens of the US ahead of their political beliefs and parties... Stop acting like spoiled children and doing just the opposite of what the other party suggests. Try actually putting US first!

    February 16, 2010 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  16. cw217

    Peter hit the nail on the head!
    It doesn't matter who you elect at this point because the lobbists run DC.

    The situation is akin to the following:
    You have a glass with a hole in the bottom, the slow leak is the issue.
    You keep changing the liquid in the glass every 4 to 8 years to keep the leak from occurring, but since that isn't the cause of the leak it keeps happening.
    Repeat ad-nauseum, due to endemic insanity, collective amnesia, and false reasoning based on a false paradigm that's designed to keep the public squabbling with each other forever while the crooks at top continue business as usual.

    No, I don't have the antidote for this poison.

    February 16, 2010 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  17. Duck Fallas

    Please, everyone in the NY tri state area, please be nice to Doug. He is very sensitive.

    February 16, 2010 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  18. CM

    2 Words–TERM LIMITS!!

    February 16, 2010 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  19. Term Limits NOW!

    We need term limits on all these crooks. They sit in office for years, getting more corrupt year by year, bought by special interests, all while forgetting why they we're elected in the first place: to serve the people.

    February 16, 2010 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  20. Ready for 2012

    It would be great if the anti-incumbent fever were demonstrated when people vote. No matter how much people talk about not re-electing incumbants, we always end up with more incumbants than new faces whether it's at the city, state, or Federal level. It's really disappointing.

    February 16, 2010 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  21. Andy

    Look @ this poll and take a weighted average the Dems come out much worst since they have more members.% of more is more .Also 52% do not approve of Obama.This will open up the seats for the Republicans come Nov.and finally get back to economics,jobs.capitalism and progress.Quit spending money like a drunk sailor with someone elses credit card.

    February 16, 2010 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  22. Jeff

    Real change can not take place until the players change. Support/demand term limits on elected officials. Don't give special interest/big business time to insinuate itself into our representative's decision making process. This should be a priority of anyone concerned with the way they are represented in state and federal government.

    February 16, 2010 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  23. Franky, Land of Lincoln

    I'm not so much on the imcumbents or who deserves what, that I could care less because odds are they are most likely gonna be there no matter what so I think it makes no difference.

    I still believe Dems are just messin up, really bad. They just seem out of sync, out of order, yet quite unorganized. But in all fainress, it does make both parties look incompetent when both of their members start retiring, it just doesn't look good on them.

    Both got money, both got everything, what else could we ask for? But I do believe that Bayh's retirment is huge in every way, who are the Dems gonna rely on fiscal responsibility? Maybe Rahm Emmanuel is right, they are freaking retarded.

    February 16, 2010 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  24. Belle1

    I think we'd all be better off by just drawing names out of a hat in each state, and sending those folks to the House and Senate.

    February 16, 2010 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  25. ObamasRecordDeficit

    There's a lot of dead wood, so I can believe this poll.

    It's mostly DUMocRATS, but there are also some dumb Republicans and Independents that need to be tossed.

    February 16, 2010 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
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