Three-quarters of U.S. registered voters say most members of Congress do not deserve to be re-elected, according to a new Gallup poll, the highest percentage of voters who have said they will not vote for incumbent congressmen in the organization's 19-year history of asking the question.
The findings are the result of poll of just over 1,000 adults conducted between Nov. 28 and Dec. 1. When asked whether most members of Congress should be re-elected, 76 percent of respondents said no, compared to a paltry 20 percent who said yes. A majority of Republicans (75 percent), Democrats (68 percent) and Independents (82 percent) all said congressional incumbents should be ousted in 2012, a rare consensus among Americans of all political affiliations.
The number of Americans who said most members of Congress do not deserve to be re-elected breaks August 2011's previous record of 70 percent. In fact, Gallup reports this trend has been rising since 2004. While voters generally had negative things to say about Congress in the early 1990s, at least half of American voters said most members deserved to be re-elected between 1998 and 2004.
Considering the U.S. Congress has had a record-low approval rating this year -- an October CBS News/New York Times poll reported just under nine percent of Americans approved of the legislative body in October, while Gallup reported Congress had a slightly-better, but still dismal, 13 percent approval rating in November -- it is unsurprising that voters do not believe most incumbents deserve to be re-elected.
Majority of Americans Still Approve of Their Representative/Senator
However, Gallup notes that while respondents generally do not approve of congressional lawmakers, 53 percent said the U.S. representative from their district deserves to be re-elected, while 39 percent held the opposite view. Although opinions of local representatives were lower than average, it was still higher than 1992 -- when only 48 percent of voters said their local representative deserved to stay in office.
While President Barack Obama has also struggled to win the approval of his constituents, Gallup reports 43 percent of respondents said he should be re-elected, compared to 55 percent who said he should not. The organization said a recent survey found Obama also has a 43 percent approval rating -- certainly not fantastic, but enough to give him a solid chance at re-election, due to the fact that incumbent presidents since World War II who won their re-election efforts reportedly had a 48 percent job approval rating or higher.
Even if they are re-elected, a recent poll from The Hill indicates that Americans want to see some major changes on Capitol Hill. Sixty-seven percent of respondents told the newspaper the $174,000 base salary for members of Congress should be lowered, while almost 70 percent said congressional lawmakers' generous pension plans should be discontinued. In addition, 64 percent said Congressional lawmakers should be required to spend more days each year on Capitol Hill, a sentiment that reached across respondents of all ages and political affiliations.
If Americans actually act on their antipathy, it could mean major changes for the political make-up of the U.S. House and Senate in 2012. Gallup notes that while Americans were not quite as negative about congressional lawmakers before the 2010 midterm elections, voters still flipped 63 seats from Democrats to Republicans to give the GOP control of the house, the largest seat gain of any party since 1948.