Pew poll: Anti-incumbent sentiment nears highest levels in two decades

A little gravy to go with that hunk of red meat cooked up by Gallup this morning.

Public frustration with Congress may have serious electoral implications for incumbents in the 2010 midterm elections. Only about a third (34%) of registered voters say they think most members of Congress should be re-elected next year, which is on par with ratings during the 1994 and 2006 elections. Meanwhile, just 52% of voters say they want to see their own member re-elected, approaching levels in early October 2006 (50%) and 1994 (49%).

In November 1994, 68% of Democrats and 55% of Republicans favored the re-election of their own member of Congress, which is comparable to the current figures (64% of Democrats, 50% of Republicans). But today, just 42% of independents want to see their own representative re-elected, compared with 52% of independents on the eve of the 1994 midterm elections.

It gets better. Among independents who say they support the Republican in their district, 56 percent are excited to vote next year; among indies who support the local Democrat, it’s 32 percent. The raw data:


Note that support for incumbents tends to bounce back a bit as election day approaches, so for the numbers on “most representatives” to portend a big GOP wave, they’ll probably need to crack the 30 percent floor sometime next year. Or will they? In 2010 Democrats will have a problem that the ’94 Dems and ’06 GOP didn’t have to deal with — namely, their own base stupidly working against them. That might be worth a few points in purple districts, depending upon how sustained the nutroots’ “people-powered” seek-and-destroy mission is.

Speaking of anti-incumbent sentiment, I was shocked at how much bipartisan support I got this morning when I tweeted the link to Jim DeMint’s doomed attempt to impose term limits on Congress. It’s not a perfect solution — after all, if the goal is to free lawmakers from the pressures of fundraising, it’ll only be achieved in their last term — but he’s right that it should reduce the hold of special interests over Congress somewhat. If you know you’re out of a job in six years, max, who cares if some industry lobby campaigns against you to get you thrown out in two? Exit question: Is it time?

Update: Greg Sargent notes that the GOP has a 16-point advantage in enthusiasm right now and identifies the solution as — you guessed it — passing ObamaCare. I confess, I’ve never really understood this logic. Passing a big liberal wish-list program will please many Democrats, but will it please them more than it’ll drive Republicans and conservative-leaning independents into fits of rage? The surest way to kick the GOP’s enthusiasm level up from 58 percent to the mid- or high 60s would be to pass some monster health-care takeover. Which will be a small consolation once the law is on the books, but even so, why is the left so confident that passage is a net vote-gainer for them?