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. JA/TN

    most got elected on bag-O-promises, just short of lying

    February 16, 2010 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  2. tim nyc

    Yep , everyone's upset...the leaders in congress can't agree on anything and are only interested in self promotion and basic political survival...meanwhile the American people finally found out they have been living in a dream world. The bubble has burst so someone has to pay ( and it won't be the bankers)...

    I have an idea- let's blame it on the guys who built all the malls and the ad men who made you want to buy all the stuff you couldn't afford while you were keeping up with the Joneses.

    One problem: the Joneses moved, folks.

    It's just one more bad reality show, people. Wake up and smell the coffee. Change your attitudes, change your goals. Go out and get some fresh air! We will survive this madness!

    February 16, 2010 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  3. Son of Spock

    I can almost smell the despairation of the Dems. Like the Repubs with Bush in power and both the house and senate, they threw the great opportunity away and soon the Dems will be hearing that wonderful flushing sound!

    Now if the Repubs can lead like good Reagan Troops this country will get somewhere.

    The government isn't the answer, it's the enemy.

    February 16, 2010 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  4. Larry Hall

    Hurrah...For Senator Bayh..."We need to intergrate him until we get some names......names..... .. that what want.... so we can vote those other egos out of office.."
    L..H. in Ohio in the trenches of small business

    February 16, 2010 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  5. Glen

    Wow 6 months late CNN. You know those NAZIS, those tea baggers that you so derided? Guess what they are voters and this is what they said in summer and this is going to be said in the midterms. Get out of your political ghetto and start getting in touch with America.

    February 16, 2010 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  6. Rick McDaniel

    Congress must start acting like the people's representatives, or they will get replaced, until someone does.

    February 16, 2010 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  7. AJ

    The American electorate will moan and groan about incumbents but turn around and elect the same old crowd. Americans are great about talking about change but when it comes to actually doing something about it they turn tail and run. Americans hate change.

    February 16, 2010 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  8. j

    Voters should really find out just what their representative is doing or not doing for them before they vote one way or the other. It's irresponsible to vote for or against someone without knowing how they stand on the issues. Find out what their positions are, their voting record, and then decide.

    The reason governments are so dysfunctional is because the voters are informed and tend to vote emotionally rather than rationally.

    February 16, 2010 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  9. Seriously

    Are people so destained for a man that has tried to help in everyway, that they would actually vote the republicans back in office, then what? The Reps don't have any plans to breath life back into the country. People are still bitter over this man being Black. For what other godly reason would you vote in a group of people that have opposed every approach by the President.

    February 16, 2010 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  10. Mr. Moderate

    Mike when the previous president used an unprecedented level of Executive Orders and signing statements, your side was silent.

    Why the difference standard for this president? Hmmmmmm?

    February 16, 2010 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  11. Alan

    Yes. So true. We're going in SUCH terrible directions right now that it's impossible to imagine anything ever getting better.

    We the war in Iraq winding down and the war in Afghanistan (where we SHOULD have focused in the first place) finally reaping rewards including participation from Pakistan that Bush/Cheney couldn't seem to growl loud enough to make them participate.

    The stock market's up. Housing prices stabilizing and home sales climbing. Banks are paying BACK stimulus money and the OBAMA stimulus money is still only half spent.

    Something's DEFINITELY wrong here!

    I know there must be because, in spite of how positive all this might sound, they still say it's all going wrong...so it MUST be.

    And - don't pay any attention to the fact that this is the party that GOT us into the horrendous mess Obama was elected to finally try and clean up, RE-ELECTING the idiots at the top behind the mess out of "party loyalty." Let's replace all those democracts with republicans anyway.

    Yeah! THAT'S the ticket! I don't want to think...

    February 16, 2010 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  12. j

    The reason governments are so dysfunctional is because the voters aren't informed and tend to vote emotionally rather than rationally.

    February 16, 2010 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  13. MP

    to Peter below – regarding you comment about protecting our constitution – It is a good thing that our president was a professor of constitional law.

    February 16, 2010 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  14. Phil McCrakin

    Perhaps all these thugs are leaving because there is no more money to steal. Seriously, how many of these folks should be arrested for fraud? THEY ARE COMMON CRIMINALS. Check out You Tube John Murtha Airport .....it will sicken you. This goes on on both sides. It is time for a Revolutuion to throw out all incumbents. Both sides .....just like Professional Wrestling.....fake....a game... but its not funny. As we lose our homes, jobs and healthcare how many of these bums have been layed off, lost homes and healthcare.......NONE...... WAKE UP TODAY.

    February 16, 2010 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  15. Obama lama ding dong

    People are mad as hell at the President's top two legislative priorities, the job killning, tax raising, socialist nightmare of universal health care, and the Cap and Tax bill. NEITHER of these idiotic bills, that Democratic leaders are trying to cram down the U.S. citizens throats, does ANYTHING usefull in terms of the real issue facing the U.S., JOBS.


    February 16, 2010 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  16. CannotFoolMe

    Why would someone fire a good hard worker? Just because you are tired or upset by the "whole" system? That makes no sense. The anti-incumbent thing is just another ploy by the sore loser republicans who have proven and wore the badge proudly of obstructionism. Even though they voted for and supported many of the same pieces of legislature that Obama now supports, they now FLIP FLOPPED just to not be frowned upon by their constituents because the repubs are sending in anyone to challenge their own party who votes WITH a democrat. That's low. That's so low, I think they are diggin up china! In the midst of the greatest economic hardship we have faced as a nation, thanks to the bush policies, we are NOW seeing more failure-ridden policies being used by republicans. Who loses? We do. Don't even give them a chance... vote out ALL incumbant Republicans and replace them with Democrats so we can finally clean up their messes and show them that they cannot play tiddlywinks with our nation so they can win political points.

    February 16, 2010 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  17. Obama lama ding dong

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.
    People are mad as hell at the President's top two legislative priorities, the job killing, tax raising, socialist nightmare of universal health care, and the Cap and Tax bill. NEITHER of these idiotic bills, that Democratic leaders are trying to cram down the U.S. citizens throats, does ANYTHING usefull in terms of the real issue facing the U.S., JOBS.


    February 16, 2010 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  18. Steve H.

    Voting one party in and another out is not the answer, just the same spin that keeps washington to business as usual. Demand term limits for your "Public Servants" Keep them on a tight leash. No more career politicians! No more smiley glads with hidden agendas! VOte American, not left or right. Do not allow the blues and reds to continue to corrupt our democracy! Think outside of the box the reds and th blues have put us in. Stop the spin and stand united as citizens of the free world! Think for your self, do not allow your party to think for you!

    February 16, 2010 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  19. Cindy Merrill

    The blizzard that hit Washington DC was a gift to every US taxpayer.
    It also shows that individual states have the ability to function perfectly well if the federal government gets out of their way.

    February 16, 2010 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  20. Anonymous

    Face it, they are all BAD and should go. Obama can not be any worse than Bush. Obama is trying but he can not do it alone!

    February 16, 2010 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  21. dstay

    Go ahead, all you lame-stream media, keep pushing that lie that we want all incumbents thrown out. The truth is for most of us thinking Americans, we want the liberals (AKA Pelois, Reid, Boxer, Rangel, etc) booted out so we can take back our country & some fiscal sanity, instead of sliding down the liberal road to sodom & gomorah.

    February 16, 2010 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  22. Obama lama ding dong

    Me, like the 80-90% of the rest of U.S. productive workers in this country with adequate healthcare, don't want to see our taxes raised, our health care jeopordized, the Goverment taking over our healthcare, all for the benefit of the few in this country, including illegal aliens who by defination, break the law by being illegal, who do not contribute their fair share. Obama and his minions in Washington D.C. are hellbent on passing universal healthcare, even though a vast majority of U.S. citizens are alerady happy with their existing healthcare, and are ademantly opposed to the Government taking over their healthcare.


    February 16, 2010 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  23. Doug Rasmussen

    Our political system has become plaqued by professional politicians. They have never had to earn a dollar in a honest way. The politicians have become and continue to demonstrate that being in 'public' office is the "purest" form of organized crime.
    I agree with Mr. Carter, Limit term limits to two terms; Eliminate lobbyists and special interest groups from Washington (if the PERK$ were gone, politicians could think about the people who voted them into office rather than themselves) Limit the amount of money that can be spent for an election so that the wealthiest can not influence the media.
    And when elected actually accomplish something while in Washington!!!!

    February 16, 2010 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  24. rob

    Try as you might CNN but many other polls are showing a wave of anti Dem and Obama sentiment in the country. This translates to huge gains for Republicans in Nov. In fact they may take both houses.

    This is great news for the country only if the Republicans have learned from their mistakes.

    The country has had enough of Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi"s ultra partisan ideological governing. With them gone Obama, like Clinton will be forced to compromise on his agenda or face defeat in the 2012 elections. This will be good news for the country.

    February 16, 2010 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  25. MMurphy

    I wonder if they will get the message? Quit representing special interest groups and start representing the people. Quit watering down important bills because of lobbyist. Quit fighting like two year olds. Move to the center and quit supporting the far left & right. There are enough moderates to keep them in office if they would do their job.

    What other job has the best health care coverage in the world, gets retirement for life and votes in their own raises and benefits. DO THE JOB!!!!!!! or get out.

    February 16, 2010 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
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