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. Sue

    CNN can try to spin the current political situation all that they want, so that it does not look as bad for the Democrats. However, notice that the Republicans are winning the elections!!!

    The elections in 2010 are going to make history--as never in the history of our elections/country--will we see as many Democrats sent to the unemployment lines in one election.

    Tick tick tick.........Only 9 more months until the 2010 elections-–and the power/control is taken away from Obama, Pelosi, and Reid-–and sanity is returned to our country once again.

    February 16, 2010 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  2. MasterGator

    I never vote for the incumbent.....not that it matters......we're all going to hell in a hand basket at breakneck speed.

    February 16, 2010 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  3. Annie, Atlanta

    This is getting ridiculous. Mostly it's the Senate. Who the heck do they think they are? And who do the Republicans think they are just saying no? We've paid them for more than a year now to do nothing.

    February 16, 2010 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  4. Elle in WA

    I propose for the next round of elections we all vote for the third-party candidate or one who DOESN'T have gobs of money to spend on a campaign. Real people in the Senate might be just what it needs to finally get something done.

    February 16, 2010 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  5. The lonely Libertarian of Liverpool NY

    What we have to do is stop buying into the election campaign lies again. DON"T BE FOOLED AGAIN.
    We elected a president based on the promise of hope and change, yet here is the new boss same as the old boss.
    stop voting for the two major parties, both of these parties are bought and paid for by the Special interest groups, PACs, Unions, Wall Street, banking, global Corporations are all contributing billions to re-election funds that undermine the people's representation.
    Excuse me! What is the difference between these two parties? All I know is both have had a monopoly on my freedom for my entire lifetime (53 YRS), and year after year I work and struggle and get no where. Every year the taxes and fees to feed the massive Government go up and the value of the Dollar goes down.
    How can you folks continue to vote for these people who refuse to represent you? How can you vote for these two parties who have done nothing to your right to individual Liberty?
    NO incumbent is safe this fall. That's the problem everyone thinks Congress is corrupt by not my representative. Well you know what if they are in Congress they are corrupt. If they accept money from outside the voting district they are corrupt. All those funds coming from Washington DC, lobbyists, PACs, Wall Street, banking, Unions, and other special interest groups outside of the state is nothing short of a bribe of your right for fair representation.
    Vote Congress out, “you are fired” if they are in. Vote them out this fall no matter what party they belong to, and in the next election and every election going forward until they become the servants of the people once more.

    February 16, 2010 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  6. Pragmatic

    It's always "throw the bums out!" Then, in the voting booth ... the tune changes to "not my bum!"

    Then, voters have to select carefully: Scott Brown, the new Republican senator from Massachusetts, claimed he had never spoken to her before later acknowledging that an election-night phone call from Ms. Palin had “slipped his mind.” Starting his term with a lie? This is not a good thing.

    The only "purity pledge" required should be putting the country and Americans ahead of "the party" ... Nearly two-thirds of Americans want Congress to keep trying to pass a health care reform bill, Get busy!

    February 16, 2010 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  7. ken in illinois

    Mike in Mn Your statement "too stupid" about Obama followers is an indication of your complete execrable mendacious philosophy. You are an example of the sycophantic personalities obsessed with presiding in Congress and furthering their own interests versus the bettering of all Americans. People like yourself are not omniscient, thus how is it you wish to be omnipotent. You sir are an ignorant ..........!!

    February 16, 2010 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  8. Jean

    Please...wake up! Obama is a mouth piece. He doesn't write the law or amend the constitution. As much as he and other socialist would have us believe. He is the Chief of the Armed Forces and has veto power. He is no more than the top of a totem pole. Without the other carvings holding him up, he wouldn't exist. Like others, I am sick of the majority of elected Congressmen and Senators no matter the party affiliation. Look to them and you find the reason for all the troubles we are now hearing about every second of the day. Look at the Federal Reserve, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the banks and lack of regulation. All the fighting, all the mud slinging....goodness just get to work on the side of the American people who trusted you to do right by them. Stop giving away tax dollars so that CEO's get huge payouts and bonus. The boards of these investment firms, banks and other large corporations are at fault as well. Stop all the pork spending and paybacks to those who helped fund your election. I have always believed that to be a politician in any level of government, you must be part crook, adulterous, greedy and egotistical.

    February 16, 2010 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  9. Grin and Bare It

    Congress, AKA the "Big House" has been overrun with politicians that have only their interests at heart. They treat the American public as if they are the "Big Boss's" and that the general public has no say as to what needs to be done. That has been a problem for a long time now. Proof of this recently sits with the Democrats and Health Care. Pelosi's attitude of "Let them Eat Cake (the Health Care Diet)" that she says they will push through no matter what is an indicator of what is wrong in Washington today. This is not only a Dem nor a Repub problem. It is the attitude from the Bottom up and the Top Down. The American public needs to stand up and vote them all out..

    February 16, 2010 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  10. Botox Pelosi

    Great job CNN burying the real story, of 52% saying they would NOT re-elect the marxist for president! Keep up your Obama love! Maybe he's go "gangsta" on the people for you!

    February 16, 2010 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  11. Liberal wing nut

    Nancey Pelosi's democrat led congress had lower approval ratings than Bush ever did but you didn't hear CNN talking too much about that.

    The socialist troll needs to go back to CA where she belongs!

    February 16, 2010 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  12. Fred L

    We may finally be getting to the point that people start doing our part to clean up our government – stop re-electing the same crooks to run the system.

    Term limits would be a good thing if we can get them but, since those in power are unlikely to vote in favor of term limits, it is up to us to impose limits by not automatically voting for incumbents.

    Rather than eliminating the filibuster, we need to reintroduce it. The actual filibuster required the person conducting the filibuster to remain at the podium and speak. When that person could no longer talk or had to step aside for any reason, the filibuster was over. I believe the other members were required to remain in session for the duration of the filibuster as well thus putting pressure on all parties to reconsider their positions.

    We also need to remove the obstacles to vibrant "third" parties. If no single party can realistically get to a majority based on partisan gambits and strong-arming, then all parties will have to move to more moderate, broader-based legislation to get it approved.

    We should also remove party affiliation from ballets. Candidates should rightfully be allowed to associate with political parties, receive support from fellow party members, etc. but we should not list party affiliation on the actual ballots. This reduce the reactionary party line voting patterns or, at the very least, require such zealots to memorize the list of people they're blindly voting for.

    I also agree that some form of public finance that affords all candidates the same amount of money to manage as they see fit would result in much better campaigns. It would also give us a much better insight into the skills of the candidate as a manager and strategist. Who would get the best bang for the bucks? Who would overspend early and fade down the stretch? Who would try to run a national campaign and who would target special interest areas? All these things would provide valuable insights into how a candidate would behave as president...

    February 16, 2010 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  13. Revolutionary

    A silent revolution. Flush the toilet in Washington. Vote out all incumbents.
    There needs to be term limits.
    The same Healthcare as us folks.
    The same Social Security as us folks.
    The same retirement age (65) as us folks.

    February 16, 2010 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  14. ken in illinois

    Get a bit excited with all the name calling versus down to earth understanding of the differing philosophies in this melting pot of US Citizens. We need understanding and compromise not name calling.

    February 16, 2010 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  15. citizen - you better BELIEVE it !

    You better BELIEVE we are fed up with the way our "elected" officials have been performing. When "we the people" elect politicians to DO OUR BIDDING and whats in OUR best interests as U S citizens AND taxpayers, these politicians had BEST REMEMBER WHERE their paychecks are coming from. NOVEMBER will be PINK SLIP TIME. We the people will have OUR SAY.
    Make NO mistake about it. The hand writing is on the wall and the "fat lady" is SINGING LOUD and CLEAR. It's time for a change.

    NOVEMBER WILL BE PINK slip month. Set the message, WEAR PINK SHIRTS when voting folks. It's time for a shake up in Washington.

    February 16, 2010 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  16. bob

    Hey Mike in mn, unless you're in the top 10% of wage earners then I suppose you're to stupid to know any better...Go figure

    February 16, 2010 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  17. Mark L.

    Doesn't anyone get it? The Republican Party is ALL about protecting the interests of Corporations to include Health Insurance Companies & their GREEDY CEO's, the Wall St. 'Fat-Cats' lining their golden pockets, Lobbyists, and their own special interests. The Democratic Party is ALL about trying to protect the foundation that this Great Country was built on including the hard working families that used to make up the Middle Class. Unfortunately, Thanks to the Bush / Cheney Administration, there IS NO Middle Class today. You're either wealthy or you are scrambling for that next paycheck just to keep up with your bills. Back in the 1950's / 1960's, a single income was enough to feed a family of four, provide insurance coverage, purchase a home, an automobile, etc. Today, unless your name is Rockefeller or Trump, you cannot afford all of those so-called luxuries, ESPECIALLY HEALTHCARE INSURANCE PREMIUMS that have literally spiraled out of control !! Just remember one thing – In the eyes of the Lord – We are ALL the Same, We are ALL created EQUAL regardless of how much money you have in the Bank. And when your days are numbered on this earth, you WILL NOT be able to take you private corporate jets, yachts, million dollar homes, etc. with you !!

    February 16, 2010 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  18. D. Bunker

    I wish the term limits nutjobs would take a second to think about how stupid that idea is. States with term limits have NOT benefited. Instead, you have a bunch of political wh-res doling out favors in order to get a sweet lobbying job when they're "limited" out of office.

    If you want to make our system better, job ONE is overturning the SC decision (with an amendment if necessary) and going to publicly financed elections. Give them all a few million dollars and let the best ideas win.

    February 16, 2010 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  19. al in memphis

    I am afraid the tipping point for American politics is something so out of wack that we want realize it until it is at the point of no return.
    Instead of giving our attention the person who can criticize the most, we need to look at who is not working to get some solutions. That is who needs to be voted out of office.
    We need a monthly report of what each elected offical is doing in DC to get things solve– then a separate report on who is just criticizing and stalling progress.

    People may say, it is not that simple– then why do almost all management jobs do performance evaluation. BECAUSE THEY ONLY WANT TO KEEP PEOPLE WHO GET THINGS DONE.

    February 16, 2010 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  20. Gus

    People seem to have already forgotten the Party that got us in this huge mess. Maybe we need new voters too.

    February 16, 2010 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  21. J.C. - Independent 4 Public Option

    Obama and his mother had to live on welfare. Of course, he was from the lower economic class. Why is there a doubt about him? He may own more than four suits and pairs of shoes now, but he lived the poor life many former presidents never had.

    On our hopeless Congress:
    We need term limits on the Senate and House. This is especially important after the recent Supreme Court ruling that opened the flood gate for corporate campaign donations. Many corporations now have foreign ownerships as anybody can buy US stocks.

    Now most kids want to grow up to be a lobbyist or a public relations expert. Who wants to be a "productive" worker in this society any more? Nah, let's all go for where money is. Who is going to pay for your social security and Medicare?

    February 16, 2010 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  22. Paul from Phoenix

    The Dems hav controlled the congress since 2006. We kicked the GOP out of the executive office, now time to kick the Dems out of Congress.

    February 16, 2010 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  23. randy

    Most Americans have finally realized that Congress represents special interest, coorporations and themeselves. They don't work towards helping the country as a whole anymore. Their full time job is to stay in power and special interest groups give them enough money to stay in power. It is way past time that we the people show them who has the REAL power. Kicking out the bums and I mean ALL the bums is the first step in repairing our country. Let's end the 2 party system once and for all.

    February 16, 2010 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  24. Robert B. Matusoff

    Congress is without conscience. No question that partisonship is more important than reason and compromise for the benefit of the public they should represent. Not only do they disagree but they are vehement and divisive in the way they do it.
    It would be refreshing to see simple disagreement coupled with sensible alternatives.
    I respect the president but he's got to ratchet it up and press harder

    February 16, 2010 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  25. rs

    I'll certainly be working against and not voting for any member of the "Party of No!". Republicans have proven time and again this year that they do not deserve positions of leadership or power.

    February 16, 2010 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6