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. The Real Tom Paine

    Check to see what happens in WI. That will tell you how this will ultimately break.

    August 9, 2011 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  2. johnmenacherjr

    ban all lobbyists no matter what side they are on from the district of Columbia. Fine them If they are caught . The lobbyist s are the problem not term limits.

    August 9, 2011 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  3. Tom

    Term limits sounds good. No grandfathering, either.

    August 9, 2011 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  4. Mike Rains

    Tea Party blew their chance. Small Government and Anti-Tax is great, but the TPers were FIGHTING FOR LOWER TAXES FOR THE RICH instead of LOWER TAXES FOR THE MIDDLE CLASS. The Tea Party is in the grip of the Rich Top 5% wage earners, just like Congress is.

    Eliminate 90% of the Federal Government. ABSOLUTE POWER CORRUPTS ABSOLUTE. We can NEVER have a big central government. Reduce taxes by 50% on middle class, eliminate all welfare, eliminate the communist Social Security. The only people who deserve help are the severely handicapped. ANyone else with two arms and two legs can starve if they can't take care of themselves. THAT'S AMERICA AND WHAT MADE US GREAT UNTIL ROOSEVELT COMMUNISM STARTED SOCIAL SECURITY.

    August 9, 2011 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  5. Bill

    The funny thing about these polls...the majority of Americans think every congressman/woman should be voted out except their own. That's because the representatives do a good job of bringing home money via pork projects to their constituents.

    August 9, 2011 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  6. colin in Florida

    Yes, we need to clean house, though members who have only been there a few years are probably not totally corrupted yet.

    Term Limits are vital, but they need to be reasonable. In Florida, we have term limits but they are too short. A maximum of 20 years of service (house and senate combined) is probably enough to maintain continuity, but ensure new faces every year. We have term limits on the president, why not the house and senate.

    We also MUST eliminate 'anchor babies'.

    For those who want someone to blame, try President Johnson. HE was the one who started spending the social security trust funds, and HE created the whole morass of 'entitlements' we have today, and HE turned Viet Nam into a full-out war. Worst excuse for a president we ever had..

    August 9, 2011 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  7. Joe

    My own congressional rep is certainly not the source of the problem, and isn't so bad all things considered, but I would gladly turn her out of office if it was part of a movement to remove ALL members of Congress and start over.

    August 9, 2011 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  8. ingrid

    First of all, I agree with Charlie in Maine. Well said. Secondly, for those who think the Tea Party is a responsible body - you are clearly delusional. Anyone who comes into congress without the ability to compromise, is not fit for office. We are a democracy. We are supposed to work together. I blame the GOP and specifically the tea party for our current economic crisis. Obama made a tactical error thinking he could work with the tea party. Boehner recently claimed to be very happy with the outcome of the debt ceiling debates as he got 98% of what he wanted. Thank you. I wanted also to note that Mr. The Day of Financial Reckoning is HERE – The Great Democrat Welfare Society Ends must have some bizzaro glasses on if you feel that Obama and the Democrats are responsible for our current situation. The spending Obama did was crucial to keeping our economy from falling further into the depths of the great depression that Bush policies brought us. Our last Republican administration brought us two unfunded wars, and brought us to the brink of the great depression with its heavy borrowing and deregulation. The GOP does not bring sensible economic policies that will help our economy overall. It will bring us an even greater divide btw the haves and the have nots. If you want, the US to fall further into economic decline, vote Republican.

    August 9, 2011 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  9. John

    Greed is the culprit and the laws are there to protect the haves.
    Tax loopholes need to be Plugged!
    Lobbyists need to be banned !
    Laws that allow "Litttle house of secrets on the Plains (Wyoming) " to exist need to be repealed
    as the legalize money laundering, Tax evasion and fraud.
    All the corporations that use The Little house of secrets should be levied a stiff fine and ordered to pay back taxes.
    The lawmakers who set those laws on the books should be sent to prison for defrauding the government and the peole of this country1

    August 9, 2011 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  10. Cliff

    Ive always believed that political parties are the greatest problem in america today. Our politicians work to serve their parties and their partisan interests, not the american people. And we, as the voters, have disregarded many good public servants because they were affiliated with one party or the other, and we didnt take the time to listen to their ideas. If we did away with party affiliations, we would actually have to listen to the ideas and ideals of the nominees.

    August 9, 2011 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  11. Mike Rains

    Eliminate 90% of the Federal Government. ABSOLUTE POWER CORRUPTS ABSOLUTE. We can NEVER have a big central government. Reduce taxes by 50% on middle class, eliminate all welfare, eliminate the communist Social Security. The only people who deserve help are the severely handicapped. ANyone else with two arms and two legs can starve if they can't take care of themselves. THAT'S AMERICA AND WHAT MADE US GREAT UNTIL ROOSEVELT COMMUNISM STARTED SOCIAL SECURITY

    August 9, 2011 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  12. Lost in Texas FOREVER

    I also agree with term limits and also want a Congress that listens to the American people and does what we vote them in there to do, not what they want to do. Case in point, poll after poll showed we wanted compromise, shared sacrifice, ending the tax cuts for the upper 2% but the Tea Party and other members turned a blind eye to that and did what they wanted. They are NOT our parents and know what is best for us. BOOT THEM OUT.

    August 9, 2011 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  13. Cliff

    But, we could just elect all independents next go around. That might help.

    August 9, 2011 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  14. bxgrrl

    "socialist communist Democrats?" You people wouldn't know a socialist or a communist if they kicked you in the head. You obviously don't know Democrats either.

    August 9, 2011 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  15. Lolo

    @day of financial reckoning you must be lobbying for the rich? You always want to spout off vote Republican. You really think that America is dumb. They will never get my vote. They are the party with most of the old coots. Get them out of here. I agree that we need to vote all of the old geezers out but in small steps, because the air head tea partiers have no clue and I sure as heck do not want them running government. Look at the mess we are in now? I see that you are an idiot and have no clue either.

    August 9, 2011 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  16. Mike

    These polls show Republican voeters are smarter then Democrat voters. The Democrats have done nothing to help this economy and plenty to hurt it. Of course, so have the Republicans. The only difference is the Republican voters can actually put bi-partisan politics aside and have the smarts and guts to vote out the very people who are not doing there jobs. Democratic voters continue to allow there same failed policy makers to get re-elected...and then act surprised when there is no favorable result. Oh, actually they don't act surprised, they just blame the other party.

    August 9, 2011 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  17. Amy

    I say teabaggers go fist, then ultra conservative Republicans and then the rest of the crazy republicans that declared war on the president and the middle class in this country! Dear GOPers, the middle class will make sure that you will loose not only the presidency, but also the HOUSE! Good bye and never come back! We need serious reforms, not your conservative cra...pp ideology and wars!!!! You ruined us financially and you will pay for that in 2012!

    August 9, 2011 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  18. angryAmerican

    They say only the american people have the power to change our government. I disagree. They still buy their way into their positions. None of the members of our government care about anyone but themselves anymore. The days of by the people for the people are long gone.

    It is appalling that welfare recipients live better than Military families. The foundation of this country is so backwards anymore that hard working people can not survive. I get tired of hearing about pay cuts to the military but yet the gov't gives themselves raises and vacations at taxpayers expense. YET, the welfare people still sit back and do nothing but yet gain weight and buy new cars with our hard earned tax dollars. When will this stop and America become a nice place to live again. I love my country, I just can not stand the government!

    August 9, 2011 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  19. Craig

    Even the most stubborn and loyal people are finally starting to open their eyes and see that both sides are full of crap. Not just "the other side".
    There needs to be election reforms. There needs to be a constitutional amendment that limits contributions to $500 from any one unit(person, corporation, special interest group). There also should be a cap on the amount of money that can be spent on an election campaign(roughly 2 million). This would destroy any type of financial leverage large businesses could use to buy elections.
    Secondly there needs to be an amendment that puts term limits on congress to a total of 12 years(total....not per chamber)
    Third there needs to be a 20 year term limit on federal judges...including scotus justices....
    4th...there should be a balanced budget amendment
    Last...there should be an amendment that abolishes the use of rules in congress that are based on political parties or any other means of separation.

    We should not have geriatrics running our country when they don't understand 90% of the stuff happening in it.
    We should not have political parties that are loyal to themselves over the people.

    August 9, 2011 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  20. Neeneko

    People are always fed up with Congress.. but when it comes to voting time 95% of the time they will just vote the same people back in because the idea of the 'other side' winning instead is more important.

    August 9, 2011 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  21. jc

    Yeah and I think I see taxes for the filthy richest from my house!

    August 9, 2011 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  22. smc

    So we have polls dating back to 2006 saying more than 50% of registered voters think Republicans in Congress should be voted out. Just get out and VOTE folks. Low voter turnout and uninformed voters are what is hurting this country the most.

    August 9, 2011 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  23. Frank P.

    Democrates for middle class GOP for rich bottom line...........

    August 9, 2011 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  24. stevegee

    Is your 401K better off today? NObama.

    Vote Republican in 2012.

    August 9, 2011 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  25. Barking Alien

    I think you are going to see Tea-mageddon next election. Their antics have cost us respect and confidence around the world. In addition it is going to probably cost us more in terms of borrowing and interest rates. So their actions cost use money instead of saving. Let's send the Koch brother's and Fox the bill.

    August 9, 2011 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
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