Represent! | Politics, government and public life for Southern California

Voters on Congressional incumbents: Throw the bums out

Fewer than 1 in 5 voters think members of Congress deserve to be reelected
Fewer than 1 in 5 voters think members of Congress deserve to be reelected
SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

It’s a favorite comparison of pollsters: Congress is already less popular with voters than traffic jams, root canals, and used car salesmen. Now, the Gallup Poll is reporting members of Congress are less popular than ever.

Historically, only about 39 percent of voters say most members of Congress deserve to be re-elected. In Gallup’s annual “Mood of the Nation” poll, conducted the first week of this month, those numbers dropped through the floor: just 17% of respondents said members deserve re-election.

But those are just generic members of Congress. Usually, voters think more highly of their own representative. But Gallup has bad news for individual  members as well: fewer than half of voters  – just 46 precent — say their own member of Congress should be sent back to Washington.

The poll could bode ill for incumbents. Every seat in the House of Representatives will be on the ballot in this year's mid-term election.

Gallup looked at three recent election years – 2010, 2006 and 1994. More incumbents lost their election those years — as a percentage of the overall number of seats — than any other in recent history.

Voters were sour on incumbents in those years as well, though not as much as this year — bad news for members running for re-election in 2014. 

The one saving grace for members seeking re-election: turnout. Mid-terms are famous for low voter turnout. The key question: are voters mad enough to show up at the polls and follow through with the answers they gave to Gallup?