CNN Poll: Time to clean house in Congress?
August 9th, 2011
11:50 AM ET
10 years ago

CNN Poll: Time to clean house in Congress?

Washington (CNN) - Need more evidence that Americans are extremely angry at Congress?

Well, here you go: According to a new national survey, for the first time ever most Americans don't believe their own member of Congress deserves re-election.

Read full results (pdf).

And the CNN/ORC International Poll released Tuesday also indicates that while Republicans may have had the upper hand in the recent battle over raising the debt ceiling, they appear to have lost a lot of ground with the public and the party's unfavorable rating is now at an all time high.

Only 41 percent of people questioned say the lawmaker in their district in the U.S. House of Representatives deserves to be re-elected - the first time ever in CNN polling that that figure has dropped below 50 percent. Forty-nine percent say their representative doesn't deserve to be re-elected in 2012. And with ten percent unsure, it's the first time that a majority has indicated that they would boot their representative out of office if they had the chance today.

"That 41 percent, in the polling world, is an amazing figure. Throughout the past two decades, in good times and bad, Americans have always liked their own member of Congress despite abysmal ratings for Congress in general," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "Now anti-incumbent sentiment is so strong that most Americans are no longer willing to give their own representative the benefit of the doubt.  If that holds up, it could be an early warning of an electorate that is angrier than any time in living memory."

As for all members of Congress, the poll indicates only a quarter of the public says most members of Congress deserve to be re-elected.

A lot of that anger seems directed toward the GOP.  According to the survey, favorable views of the Republican party dropped eight points over the past month, to 33 percent. Fifty-nine percent say they have an unfavorable view of the Republican party, an all-time high dating back to 1992 when the question was first asked.

The poll indicates that views of the Democratic party, by contrast, have remained fairly steady, with 47 percent saying they have a favorable view of the Democrats and an equal amount saying they hold an unfavorable view.

"The Democratic party, which had a favorable rating just a couple of points higher than the GOP in July, now has a 14-point advantage over the Republican party," adds Holland.

The same pattern holds for the parties' leaders in Congress.  House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, the top Democrat in the chamber, have never had great numbers, but the public's view of them have remained essentially unchanged in the wake of the debt ceiling debate.  But House Speaker John Boehner's favorable rating has dropped 10 points, and his unfavorable rating is up to 40 percent, a new high for him.  On the Senate side, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell isn't faring much better - his unfavorable rating is 39 percent, a seven-point increase since July.

The poll indicates that Americans' views of the tea party movement have also turned more negative, with 51 percent saying they have a negative view of the two-year-old limited government and anti-tax grassroots movement, with favorable ratings dropping from 37 percent down to 31 percent. Freshman House Republicans elected with major support from tea party activists were instrumental in keeping any tax increases out of the agreement to raise the nation's debt ceiling.

The CNN poll was conducted by ORC International on August 5-7, with 1,008 adult Americans questioned by telephone. The survey was conducted both before and after Friday night's downgrading of the country's credit rating by Standard and Poor's. The poll's overall sampling error is plus or minus three percentage points.

- CNN Deputy Political Director Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report.

Filed under: CNN/ORC poll • Congress • Debt • Deficit • Economy
soundoff (343 Responses)
  1. Mike@Seattle

    1) Term limits are definitely needed. Congress is elected by the citizens, but ultimately wind up working for special interest groups and the corporations. Why support their lifetime tenure with these groups?

    2) MUST get more regular people to run for congress. It is now full of lawyers. Lawyers, by nature, are trained NOT to seek the truth, but to make the best argument for whatever side [of the issue] that they represent. The professional most looked down upon in our society is lawyers, yet we elect them to congress thinking they will do what is fair and decent. Honesty and compassion from a lawyer??? Ha ! Send Mr. Smith (teachers, nurses, businessmen, scientists, etc. to congress).

    August 9, 2011 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  2. lkc

    1. Obama has done a wonderful job under the circumstances, what Bush gave him. Who is going to beat him ????
    2. Tea party candidates needs to be booted out. Boehner, Cantor, McConnell and other hardliner GOP must be defeated. They are for GOP and not for the Country and its people. They are for the rich people only.
    3. Congress term limit should be 2 terms only.
    4. Vote correctly during 2012 election time else blame yourself.

    August 9, 2011 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  3. Cynic

    Throw out the incumbent Congressmen/women and find another way to select Supreme Court justices. SCOTUS is supposed to test the constitutionality of legislation, not to make sure that the rich corporate interests have a right to buy politicians. This is the only one of the three branches of government that is not accountable to the public in any way, shape or form. And what can you expect when it is the President who selects a replacement Justice and the Congress that confirms it?

    August 9, 2011 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  4. Jonathan

    The solution is simple. First, disband political parties. All they do is give a small amount of people a way to control who becomes a candidate, and gives the people a shortcut to voting that doesn't require them to actually find out anything about the candidate. The candidate could run on a platform of dropping every 3rd child born into an active volcano and euthanizing anyone over the age of 42, and they would still win the votes of lazy voters who simply vote for the party and not the person.

    More independent candidates is a start, but once that party forms an identity, we'll see the same problem. Look at the Tea Party. "Yay! A third party alternative to Republicans and Democrats! Finally we have a chance to take back government and make a difference." Except that they were just another political party. We need a way to get more of the public involved in government. We need an informed populace who will take the time to learn who they are voting for, not just voting party lines. And we need real people running for offices, not just politicians. People with real world experience dealing with these real world issues. How many of these morons who were debating over this debt ceiling issue actually have any experience with economics? While I wouldn't vote for him if you held a gun to my head, Donald Trump has more of a chance of turning around the economy simply because he understands and has run a successful business.

    The second thing we need to do is prevent special interests. Donations to candidates can only come from an individual, and must be capped under a certain amount. Donations should be a way of showing your support for a candidate, not of buying a candidate's support for you and your organization.

    In the long run, we need to start over. Take the constitution, the declaration, and throw everything else out. The law shouldn't be so complicated that only a lawyer can understand it. How is the average citizen supposed to know where they stand on an issue if the language used is so complicated that no one understands it? For that matter, how are the people we've elected to represent us supposed to take a stand if even they don't understand it? The health care bill was over 1400 pages long. With that level of complexity and lack of understanding, it's easy for us to be manipulated by people with their own agenda.

    August 9, 2011 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  5. Jack

    Term limits will not resolve the problem.

    August 9, 2011 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  6. Mary

    The American people are angry. And it's long overdue. If you are angry at the other party, but can't see the corruption in your own party, then you are as bad as the worst of them.

    August 9, 2011 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  7. Don

    What we really need is more than two parties to work with. Evidently, partisan politics is all that we have now. I would love to have a valid 3rd party candidate.

    August 9, 2011 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  8. caeser

    Term limits or an educated and alert electorate capable of exercising enough basic common sense to throw the bad apples out.
    They should be allowed to stay until they displease the electorate or until the electorate find someone better.

    August 9, 2011 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |

    They almost ruin thd nation, then go on a 5 week vacation, at least they can't do anymore harm. Let them stay on vacation. I am for Term Limits, no one should stay where they become dictators, emperors for life, or Gods.

    August 9, 2011 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  10. Scott from NH

    We live in the only first world nation without national health, the only nation without maternity leave, and the only first world nation filled with kids dying of untreated diseases and the Republicans call that "socialist." I guess to them, anything short of a king controlling an army of chained slaves is clearly socialist.

    August 9, 2011 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  11. Atlanta Independent

    I cant wait until 2012 so I can vote the teabaggars out of the office and vote all the Republicans out of the office.

    Let take back our country from the teabaggars 2012

    August 9, 2011 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  12. Name

    I wonder if this poll asked how favorable the senate was too? I'm sure it was just aimed at the big bad horrible republicans, you know since they are the ones who said to Obama that the country needs to live within it's means, and not on a shopping spree everyday. How dare they.

    August 9, 2011 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  13. Jay

    I have traditionally voted Republican until Obama. 8 years of Bush was enough to push me over to Obama. But Bush appears a wise saint now after seeing the current Republic party! Palin, Perry .. is downright scary! I wonder if Al Queda has succeeded after all .. in bringing out these extremest in our own society. Where are intelligent, decent leaders?

    August 9, 2011 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  14. PartyOfNo

    at Maggie
    yep because fox news does the polls so much better

    August 9, 2011 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  15. vote them out please

    We can impose term limits by voting reps out of office. Put Americans in that are educated and willing to do what is best for the country in the long run, but not stay in DC along time. We need to make cuts to entitlements. Perhaps if we send a message to those in office to cut entitlements, and raise taxes to pay for the trillions that we have already spent we can have a balanced budget. How many of you would pay 40% interest on a loan and then never pay on the principle? That is what we are doing when we say don’t touch social security and don’t raise taxes to those who are in office.

    August 9, 2011 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  16. Katz

    The last census that was taken showed the top 10 poorest cities in our nation are all run by Democrats and have been since 1960 or earlier. Chicago never had a republican mayor. This tells me that Dems & Libs put these cities in bankrupcy just like they did our nation. You can't continue to give money to illegals for schooling, healthcare, food etc and continue to pay the people on welfare which by the way now think it's a job, they have been on for generations after generations. I know you Dems & Libs can't be that stupid, or can you? Then you continue to give them free breakfast and lunch in the schools. You have ruined this country. Don't cry about the rich. They already put in over 50% of the taxes. • Candidate Obama, who promised our nation big things, has now shriveled into a weak, small-minded president reduced to ugly character attacks to save one job – his own – while failing the millions of Americans now without a job of their own under his watch.

    August 9, 2011 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  17. Mad-as-a-toad

    Boot them all out; everybody goes next election. If you've been there before, you're done.

    August 9, 2011 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  18. ELIO

    why the so call patriots or militias are not bombin Fox or huntin dowwn this GOP antiamerican terrorist? Are them a real patriots?

    August 9, 2011 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  19. USAIsDead

    Well, if the majority of Americans want their congressman out, then you know that won't happen. The only groups that get what they want in this country are the politicians, the Tea Party and Corporate America.

    August 9, 2011 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  20. rpaul

    It is the freshman wet-behind-ears Republican "tea partiers" that we need to get rid of – a small minority of red-necks who have been 6 months in office that know nothing about economics, the US or politics ("duh, I was to a used car dealer in Abilene 6 months ago now I run the country, ain't it great") have held the entire US hostage. They made a solemn pledge to their cult leader Grover Norquist to do whatever he says, which is basically treason, because our elected representatives should only pledge to the United States. What if Obama pledged to obey the Pope, or Oprah Winfrey:? Can you imagine the uproar ! Lets vote these ignorant yokels out of Congress next November!!!

    August 9, 2011 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  21. Brian

    The democrats get every bit as much money from big business as repulicans. And the democrats are no less likely to return the favor to their political donors. Just look at who our president is shacked up with. It's a who's who of banks and business. Neither party holds a moral high ground here. I think the media, including CNN is doing a super job of training us all to hate the tea party. So much for tolerating others opinions.

    August 9, 2011 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  22. Nurse Lisa

    American politics is like driving – choose D if you want to go forward, and choose R is you want to go backward.

    August 9, 2011 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  23. Patrick Richardson

    Getting the corporate stooges out of Congress is long over due. We need a law making institution in Wash. D.C. not an institution for law breaking. Lobbyists and Pac's need to be heavily monitored or banned outright. The whole system needs a new engine that will actually work for the citizens who foot the bill. This nonsense of people suffering while corporations use tax payers monies to make billions in profits,pay no taxes and use our Defense Dept. to further their goals needs to stop.

    August 9, 2011 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  24. Light In The Black

    This whole thing was manufactured, just like the crash
    in 1939.
    And they pulled it off again.

    August 9, 2011 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  25. Chris Ritchie

    Our whole system needs to be redone by those who want a fair (or at least as fair as you can make it) system. We need a better and easier tax system, smaller government, better prison systems that WORK, and most of all those in office that will do the job the way it needs to be done instead of what money or power they can line their pockets with. There should be term limits and once and for all, kick those special interest groups out of Washington. A committee should be formed to accept all special interest group requests and from there, they prepare a white paper for all members to review to pros and cons of each. I can go on and on just like everyone else. The bottom line is, get those idiots out of office!!!!

    August 9, 2011 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
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