It’s the old adage in political science: Americans hate Congress but like their congressman. But that might be changing.
According to a new Gallup Poll, a record low of people say their member of Congress deserves reelection. Among registered voters, just 46 percent say the member from their congressional district should get reelected.
This trend shows that voters no longer see their member as strictly a local representative fighting for that district but as a participant in the broader Congress, who is not necessarily working in their best interests.
Now, the first part of the old equation is still true: Americans really don’t like the rest of Congress. Along with overall support of Congress being incredibly low, the poll, conducted between Jan. 5 and 8, shows that only 17 percent of registered voters think that most members of Congress deserve reelection. The historical average of voters who think the majority of members deserve reelection hovered around 39 percent but has dropped sharply since early 2008, around the time of the economic crisis.
Overall, this poll is significant in that it shows public frustrations with the divisiveness and unproductiveness of Congress continue to seep into individual races. However — and this will be where this poll matters — the way some districts have been redrawn in recent years might not even allow a change in incumbents because the parties are so set in stone.
This factor only accounts for the general elections, though. The strong sentiment among voters might translate into primary challenges. That’s where the opportunity is for many of these voters, and that’s where a lot of the movement has taken place. The poll shows that an equal number (18 percent) of registered Democratic voters and Republican voters say most members deserve reelection. This frustration is not aimed at parties but at individual members.
Will there be a huge party turnover in Congress during the midterms? Not likely. But are some members at risk of getting a serious primary challenge? Quite possibly, and that’s why members should pay attention to this poll.