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. ThinkAgain

    I agree with some posters here that lobbyists and PACs should be taken out of the equation.

    Real campaign finance reform – starting with legislation that nullifies the Supreme Court ruling that corporations are people and entitled to First Amendment free speech protection – is needed NOW.

    Regarding term limits: We have them already – it's called VOTING!

    My thoughts on the filibuster: Leave it in place – and if it's done strictly for political pandering, the majority power should simply answer it by using the reconciliation and recess appointments processes.

    February 16, 2010 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  2. Jerry

    Hope is obviously not a plan and this administration proves once again that all bad things said about lawyers are true. i am on board to replace all of them this time.

    February 16, 2010 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  3. ThinkAgain

    I like my Senators and Congressman. But then again, they are Democrats and are actually trying to do something to help my state and our country.

    Unlike the Republicans, who only care about taking our country down the tubes to try to make the President look bad so they can pander to their base in hopes of regaining power.

    GOP = Party Before Country

    February 16, 2010 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  4. Tracy

    Which is worse – the outgoing devils you know or the incoming devils you don't know?

    February 16, 2010 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  5. smoii

    Can I just say I don't like to see Obama's, Pelosi's, Biden's face showing up on TV anymore? Other people will tell the reason why. It just looks so disgusting to watch Obama protruding his chin, regurgitating hid empty talks over and over "I'll change.., I'll bring hope..." Yeh, I hope you'll be over soon, Obama!

    February 16, 2010 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  6. T'SAH from Virginia

    The THIRD of Americans who are upset with Congress may be more DEMOCRATS than RepubliCAN'TS.... So RepubliCAN'Ts, don't count yoru chickens before they hatch!!

    February 16, 2010 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  7. ThinkAgain

    Mike in MN: You want the Republicans back in power? Are you kidding me?

    Answer this question honestly: Were your wages lower or higher in October 2008 compared to January 2001?

    Were your health care insurance costs higher or lower in October 2008 compared to January 2001?

    Was your job security less or greater in October 2008 compared to January 2001?

    Were your taxes higher or lower in October 2008 compared to January 2001?

    Did you feel safer in October 2008 compared to January 2001?

    (Keep in mind the Republicans controlled all branches of government from January 2001 – January 2007.)

    February 16, 2010 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  8. rta

    get rid of the incumbent republicans too especially boehner, mcconnell, cantor, bachman, wilson demint and others who want to bring america down just for political gains . just clean house of the republicans who continue to play games with the american people instead of governing. i find them just as distasteful too. get rid of the fillibuster and all of the toxic negative narrow minded tea baggers too especially sarah palin. then if the dems and obama can't get anything done then they deserve not to be reelected also.
    senator bayh might be sending a message, but it is not being received by the toxic republican lawmakers who continue not to governed and vote no on everything. they are just playing games and it is time they be held accountable too especially if you are holding the dems accountable.

    February 16, 2010 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  9. MMurphy

    Ditto to "I'm no expert". We sit at the coffee shop all the time and discuss these same matters. I wrote my Congresswomen and told her how disgusted I am at the greed of politicians and that maybe the Rep & Dem parties have run their course and it is time for a new party. Currently none of them have the integrity or ethics to clean up our political system. They are all bought and paid for in the name of greed and power.

    February 16, 2010 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  10. Layla

    Gee, I wonder why.... What's not to like about having a dictatorship try and take over your country and the minority party just sitting idly by without so much as a whimper? What's not to like about a Congress that exempts itself from THE LAW, gives itself automatic pay raises, lives on perks and lifetime benefits ordinary citizens don't have? What's not to like about the United States Federal Socialist

    This American can't wait for election day, November 2.

    February 16, 2010 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  11. NH Lucky

    Hmm. So, I guess the Republican strategy of totally gumming up the works in the US Senate to prevent things from getting done, then accusing the party in power of doing nothing is working!! That plays so well with voters' frustrations. Does anybody pay attention to what is really going on here?

    February 16, 2010 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  12. ToyotaBestAmericanMadeCar

    Democrats that have most supported Obama are unlikely
    to be re-elected, and Republicans that have been more
    supportive of Obama concepts are having trouble.

    February 16, 2010 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  13. sine

    lets get some things straight- OVERALL no one likes the way business is done in washington. But the reason the incumbents are unpopular is 1. the party in power gets blamed for it all (even though the problems were created by the other party) 2. the party in power is not liked because they are not being forceful enough with their agenda!!! The democrats are not unpopular because they are to leftist...it's because they are not doing what they need to do to get the things that americans voted them in to do. I don't understand why the party that does absolutely nothing ( no solutions, no ideas) aka republicans are getting rewarded for doing nothing? Americans overall are misinformed and want instant gratification. Ask yourself this question, is the country better off than it was 2 years ago ?? I don't know about you but the answer is a most definite YES! So why don't people stop with the foolishness already and educate themselves properly!!!

    February 16, 2010 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  14. Socialism...keeping police/fire stations, roads, justice system and the military out of the hands of Capitalists

    To Mike in MN,

    I hate to be the one to inform you of this but there are certain priveledges, namely EXECUTIVE priveledges, that Obama has that allows him to do such things. Most of these were put in place by our founding fathers. Another good portion were put in by the Bush administration. Quit making our state look bad and get an education.

    February 16, 2010 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  15. Ron

    Most people appear to me to be unhappy with OTHERS' incumbent candidates, but happy with their own.

    February 16, 2010 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  16. HJA

    First of all we are not in a democracy. When only the rich can afford to run for office that's not a democracy. The 2 party system has turned into a sham. They are like exclusive country clubs that regulate their membership. The recent Super-Ream court ruling has made sure this country will never be a democracy again. Corporations are in charge. CEO's laugh at us knowing full well they have the politicians in their pockets. The rich have the power and want more. We have without a doubt the most corrupt government on the planet, and there is nothing we can do about it. It's too late.

    February 16, 2010 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  17. Nico

    it's not just congress. The entire system is broken. all seats are filled with self serving people. even the sup. court has sold us out to corporate interest. so if we're talk replacment it has to be for the entire system. the 2 party system has taken america down a wrong path.

    February 16, 2010 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  18. Layla

    Term limits, term limits, term limits!

    No more lifetime benefits, 30% paycut across the board until the deficit is paid off. Travel commercial just like ordinary citizens, spend 3 more months per session in your districts, pay your taxes or GO TO JAIL, did I say term limits?

    February 16, 2010 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  19. Bill in Dallas

    The Republicans have been genious in manipulating and imposing their own perseptions. This is not all the Republican's doings as the Democrats have done a poor job communicating with the American people.

    February 16, 2010 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  20. Chris

    well well well. Obama & Posse only got a year in and already the nation is caling for their scalps. While Bush was misguided at least he wasn't a pathetic amateur like this guy. America is well on its way to being just another black-owned business

    February 16, 2010 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  21. My non-union toyota is safer than my old overpriced GM trash

    "52 percent saying the president does not deserve a second term in office" and only 44 say he does.

    Bye, bye Barry and the Congressional Dems. You destroyed this country for decades.

    No more bank and union bailouts.

    February 16, 2010 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  22. SocialismBad

    This is NOT anti-incumbent anger as the liberal MSM would like to spin it and delude themselves and their readers. This is anti-leftist, anti-socialist, anti-spending, anti-fiscal madness anger. The voters are FED UP with the Democrats and their suicidal spending and government takeovers.

    The federal government with the Democrats (Obama, Reid, Pelosi, Frank) in full control IS DANGEROUS to the future of this country.

    February 16, 2010 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  23. Mel

    The Supreme Court (this one) won't allow most of the suggestions as to term limits, lobbyists and public campaign financing. It would take a constitutional amendment to ban corporate money from elections. The politicians who are the biggest beneficiaries of the status quo on that would be the very ones who would have to vote to ratify it. But in the long run, they themselves lose because they have to spend all their time raising money and then run home to personally redraw their own districts to insure their re-election. In the meantime, have a look at how they handle campaign finance in England, Canada and other western democracies. But don't look for any documentaries or mainstream media coverage on that. You'll have to dig for it yourself.

    The only REAL answers:
    Public Funding for all elections.
    Stop allowing politicians to draw their own political districts.

    The big ONE-TWO punch for true democracy.

    February 16, 2010 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  24. Real American

    Corporate corruption of Congress is a huge problem on both sides of the aisle. It is up to voters to be vigilant and vote their Representative or Senator out at the first sign that they are bought and paid for by large corporations. The idea of voting GOP fills me with the urge to vomit, but I'm can still easily bring myself to say "Chris Dodd – good riddance".

    February 16, 2010 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  25. 1GregM

    Both parties are responsible for the shape our country is in. CLEAN THE HOUSE in 2010 and 1/3 of the Senate. Let's start over with term limits so these animals do not get the impression they are entitled to a job for life in the perk bin. We have limited the presidency, let's make it the same for the legislature. Let's begin the healing in 2010 so the sock puppet -in – chief is stiffled in his attempts to ruin this country.

    February 16, 2010 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
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