Time to throw my guy out of Congress?
October 16th, 2013
01:45 PM ET
8 years ago

Time to throw my guy out of Congress?

Washington (CNN) - It's conventional wisdom: Americans don't like Congress.

But when it comes time to vote, they usually don't throw their lawmaker out of office.

However, new polls indicate that times and perceptions about "throwing the bums out" may be changing.

Those same surveys, as well as a veteran political handicapper, also suggest that one year before the 2014 midterm elections, the shutdown may provide the Democrats an opportunity to win back the House.

The public is clearly angry over the two week-long partial federal government shutdown and how the talks to avert or end the shutdown and extend the nation's debt limit have been handled. And while polls suggest that more of the blame has been pointed at the Republicans in Congress rather than their Democratic counterparts or President Barack Obama, all sides are feeling the pain.

As history proves, House incumbents overwhelmingly get re-elected, even in wave years. Ninety-four percent of incumbents won in 2006, when Democrats re-took both houses of Congress. And 85% of incumbents won a return trip to Capitol Hill in 2010, when the GOP, thanks to a 63 seat pickup, took back control of the House. (Turnover in open seats where no incumbent was running accounted for the rest.)

But two new polls suggest that high retention rate could fall a bit in 2014.

While nearly three-quarters of registered voters questioned in a Pew Research Center poll released Tuesday said they would like to see most members of Congress defeated in the next election, there was an even more eye popping number: Thirty-eight percent said they didn't want their own representative re-elected. That's the highest level recorded in the more than two decades that Pew has been asking that question.

"At this stage in the 2010 and 2006 midterms, fewer wanted to see their own member of Congress defeated (29% in November 2009, 25% in September 2005)," according to a release from Pew Research.

The Pew poll isn't alone in finding a rise in voter dissatisfaction with their own representatives.

Sixty percent of people questioned in an NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey released last Thursday said if given the chance to vote to defeat and replace every single member of Congress, including their own representative, they would. That's the highest level ever recorded on that question in NBC News/Wall Street Journal polling.

"These polls show a strong anti-incumbent mood, but you have to remember that most incumbents represent relatively safe districts due to gerrymandering and will probably have a major cash advantage and few of them are likely to draw strong challengers," said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.

The NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, as well as handful of other national surveys conducted since the start of the shutdown on October 1, indicate the GOP brand taking a hit, with the party's favorable ratings and the approval ratings for congressional Republicans at or near historic lows.

Those numbers seem to be affecting the generic ballot, which asks if you would vote for the Democratic or Republican candidate in your congressional district without mentioning the names of any candidates.

The Democrats have an eight point advantage, 47%-39%, over the GOP in the NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey, a five point jump in a month. The Democrats were up nine points (43%-34%) in a Quinnipiac University survey conducted in the days just before the shutdown started, a five point increase since their previous poll in July. And the Democrats have a six-point advantage over the GOP in the Pew poll.

"An anti-incumbent mood tends to hurt the party that has more incumbents," added Holland "That would suggest that 2014 might be a bad year for Republicans, although with a Democrat in the White House, the anti-incumbent mood could be muddled."

The new polling also has a top non-partisan political handicapper changing his mind.

"Last week I observed that I hadn't yet seen 'compelling evidence' that a Democratic political wave could be developing. I can no longer say that after seeing the recently released NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll," Stuart Rothenberg, editor and publisher of the non-partisan Rothenberg Political Report, said Wednesday.

But the next election is still more than a year away. At this time in 2010 midterm election cycle, the Democrats had the advantage in the generic ballot.

"Surveys conducted in the middle of a major event may have a very short shelf life," cautioned Rothenberg. "After the current confrontation ends, voters could easily return to their default partisan positions – or the shutdown and debt ceiling showdown could have created a new partisan baseline from which the GOP can never recover."

And while the generic ballot is a useful gauge, it's important to remember that the battle for the House is a district-by-district fight, rather than a national race, and just 17 of the 232 House Republicans are in districts won by Obama in last year's election.

–CNN's Dan Merica contributed to this story.

Filed under: Congress
soundoff (195 Responses)
  1. Joe in CA

    The reason nothing changes is because, although polls show people having a low opinion of "Congress", they tend to *approve* of *their* congressmen. To put that another way, everybody (no matter what part of the country they're in) feels that the real problem with congress lies with the people "you other states" are sending to D.C. Therefore, the "solution" (in the eyes of each district) is *not* to throw out their own congressman (who, they feel, is one of the only ones fighting for the right things), but to help him keep the representatives from all those *other* districts from messing this country up even further.

    Welcome to a union which is just too big and diverse to get along.

    October 16, 2013 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  2. jonquil123

    Within minutes of The Tea Party losing their majority, our economy would come roaring back. The games they've played in Congress has paralyzed consumers, investors and business owners.

    October 16, 2013 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  3. Chris

    I am voting out as many of the Tea Baggers as I can. Saddly enough, most Americans who vote are not paying attention or will forget when it comes time.

    October 16, 2013 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  4. PhillyBusinessPerson

    Anyone who fails to see Ted Cruz as anything other than the fanatical, self-interested, old-school sleazeball politician that he is, is living in a fantasy world. His comments today where he claimed that the divided congress represented the will of the American people when 75% of those people showed total disdain for their behavior, shows just how out of touch with reality he is. We can't continue to let people like Ted Cruz run around saying that the represent conservative thinking in this country. I truly wish the American people would have had the courage to take to the streets in protest during this shutdown. We have ourselves to blame, for appearing to be complacent and dis-interested while a handful of self-motivated fanatics hold our country hostage.

    October 16, 2013 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  5. Jeff Lundberg

    Either way, this whole country is royally $crewed. There is no way this country will EVER be out of debt, It's only going to get worse. Start prepping.

    October 16, 2013 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  6. Robyn

    My Representative, Mr. Boehner, has stood by, weak and cowardly while the Koch Brothers and their PR machine, the Tea Party, have twisted American society in knots for own perceived, short term gain.

    I truly see the Republican Party as a significant danger to a free government and a free society in the United States. Their extremist, dogmatic demands that all Americans must toe the line to all of the views is the absolute opposite of what freedom is all about.

    I will be working very hard over the next year and beyond to remove Mr. Boehner and his Republican ilk from office; not only for my own safety, but so our children can grow up in a country where freedom and honor and duty still mean something.

    October 16, 2013 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  7. Jetranger

    10/16/2013 at 11pm tonight I will Announce the immediate Firings of those in Congress and the Senate who will no longer represent those in their Districts up to and including the president and speaker of the house, be prepared to be un-employeed !!

    October 16, 2013 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  8. midwest Pete

    How can you say "few of them are likely to draw strong challengers" when a monkey would be a strong challenger against these bums.

    October 16, 2013 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  9. Larry in Houston

    I voted anybody & everybody that had to do w/ the extreme OUT, last time. and I will do it again. Unfortunately, a few of the liberal towns is Austin, among a few others, as long as you stay out of the capitol bldg. The alligators typically stay with their own kind. The Colleges in Austin are students that are mostly free thinkers, and aren't swayed as much as one thinks.

    October 16, 2013 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  10. Don

    The Republicans are 100% to blame for shutting down the government and trying to throw the US in default. This is a National Security issue and the President should have the power to keep the government open and to pay our bills!! If the Republicans don't like Americans which it is obvious they don't they should all move to another country!!!!

    October 16, 2013 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  11. ImvotingforHillary

    I'm going to do my part to give President Obama a Congress he can work with. I am voting straight Democrat in 2014.

    October 16, 2013 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  12. JohnnyZ

    Congress has all the toys to play with and no adults to make sure they play nice. They are the rule makers who dictate their own salaries, benefits and own set of laws. There are few checks and balances for these villains.

    ...when I hear on the news that one of them has take ill or has taken a bullet, I will most likely and unfortunately smile.

    October 16, 2013 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  13. JS

    We have a collection of elected idiots in both parties. They should all be declared non essential.

    October 16, 2013 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  14. Sandy Napel

    Yes we spend too much. Nevertheless, the entire fiasco can be blamed on the notion that being a congress-person can be a career. Once elected, they measure their every move based on what they need to get re-elected. And cooperation with colleagues in the congress is not valued by the electorate. When have you heard something like, "yeah, let's re-elect him because he compromised." What we needed to avoid the gridlock that we have been witnessing, and what we need to create a budget that reigns in spending and taxes people and corporations fairly, is compromise. Whether you agree with your representatives position on important issues or not, they have ALL FAILED US and will continue to fail us unless their terms in office are limited. One way to limit their terms is to VOTE THEM ALL OUT in the next election; but that won't happen because we agree with them on the issues and won't vote for their opponents. So we need to have term limits written into the law. During the next election, raise this question with your candidates. Will they support term limits? If they say no, don't vote for them.

    October 16, 2013 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  15. skarphace

    When people usually say "throw the bums out", they mean the other guy. Look at local polls, and you will see that the politicians on both sides are quite popular locally. I doubt we will see a large turnover in 2014, unfortunately.

    October 16, 2013 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  16. Peter

    Tea Party, Republicans or Democrats, you want to play games go to the park and play, stop playing with our lively hood. Your all a bunch of self centered, self serving idots all trying to make a name for your self. Remeber your a servent of the people of the United States not your ego. How many times over the last several years have we had a balanced budget? How many times have we raised the debt ceiling? Every last one of you should be FIred for not doing your jiob.

    October 16, 2013 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  17. jj

    Just throw the GOP out. Progressives have the well-being of Americans in mind whereas the rightwingers do not.

    October 16, 2013 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  18. Anonymous

    Harry is worhtless cheat

    October 16, 2013 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  19. tafugate

    i pride myself in having voted for the candidate i thought would do the best job, regardless of party, for 45 years. but it becomes increasingly tougher to vote republican every year. that said, democrats aren't a heckuva lot better.

    October 16, 2013 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  20. Paul Willmes

    There should be posters on all street corners with the names and pictures of the bums (especially from the tea-party) so that the Americans do not forget the people that bring this great country down – send them back to where they belong. Think of it as the "American most not wanted list".

    October 16, 2013 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  21. clark

    time for a new form of politics in the United States: TWO -YEAR TERM LIMITS on ALL government employees – President included!

    October 16, 2013 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  22. LDRP

    Well, I'm from Texas. And yes, I'll do anything in my power to eliminate Ted Cruz. What an embarrassment. But we have five more years with him. This entire vein of adversarial politics can be traced back to the 1994 Contract with America. And our own Texas boy, Tom Delay, was a big part of that scene. I want politicians who can collaborate and solve problems.

    October 16, 2013 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  23. Stan

    I'm fed up with how they all spend our money. I personally have been intolerant of any type of US Government shutdown from the very onset.
    Fiscal Terrorism is Treason.
    Either side of the aisle should be held accountable. This is just beginning to wake the voting public up: minimum wage and term limits for all politicians is coming. Vote 'em out.

    October 16, 2013 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  24. olkvgn

    Time to throw them out? Yes, and replace them with another bunch of losers so partisan that nothing gets done. Elect different losers only concerned with getting themselves elected and managing their re-election campaign. Loser who are supported by so MANY Americans who don't want to compromise,who only care about themselves, who don't see the big picture of what this country needs to preserves EVERYONE'S rights and progress going forward.
    Yeah, let's throw them out.

    October 16, 2013 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  25. JC

    Those Republican crazies in the house have got to go. We should never have to deal with nuts like this that will hurt the country by holding it hostage to try and get what they want. There is a proper way of doing things and shuting down the government is not it. Its time to replace the tea party members with sensible represenitives in the house.

    October 16, 2013 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
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