Americans Don’t Want Most Members of Congress Reelected, But Will Do It Anyway

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A new poll from Gallup Wednesday shows that a majority of Americans do not believe that "most members of Congress" deserve to be reelected in the 2014 midterms. But that doesn't mean incumbents should be scared.

According to Gallup, with roughly six months before the midterms, "anti-incumbent sentiment" is high. In fact, it might be the highest Gallup has ever recorded. Just 22 percent of respondents believe Congress members deserve to be reelected. That's on pace to be the lowest percentage for an election year. 


The key is in how Gallup poses the question. Respondents are asked about "most members of Congress" – an unspecific, nameless group. But when respondents are asked about their representative in particular, the "deserves reelection" figure shoots up to 50 percent. Both numbers are up from a January poll, in which Gallup found just 17 percent and 46 percent of Americans believe most members of Congress and their own representative deserve reelection, respectively. 

So as down as Americans are on Congress as a whole, they have a much more favorable view of their own reps. Which is why incumbency reelection rates are astronomical in general. 

Center for Responsive Politics

Since 1964, at least 85 percent of incumbents that sought reelection won it. The incumbent advantage is slightly less in the Senate – the lowest reelection percentage in the past 20 years was 75 percent in 1986 – but Americans clearly have no problem reelecting members of Congress. This is true even in years with strong anti-incumbent sentiments. According to Gallup, in years like 1992 and 2010, when just 29 and 33 percent of respondents felt that most members deserved reelection, 85 and 88 percent of House incumbents were reelected, respectively.

Any shake-up or shifts in Congressional make up this year will likely be due more to Congressional retirements than incumbency losses. As much as Americans think the body of Congress is doing a crap job, they're not going to take it out on their own representative. So rest easy, incumbents, most of you will be back next year.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.