Politics

Re-Election Measures Continue to Predict Major House Shakeup

by Frank Newport

Majority of voters say most members of Congress do not deserve re-election

PRINCETON, NJ -- Voters are not quite as negative now as they were earlier this year when asked if most members of Congress deserve re-election, with 33% saying they do, and 56% saying they do not. Still, the current sentiment about re-electing most members of Congress remains among the most negative Gallup has measured before midterm elections over the past 16 years, and continues to suggest the potential for a major shift in House seats on Election Day, Nov. 2.

1992-2010 Trend: Do Most Members of Congress Deserve Re-Election, Among Registered Voters

Democrats currently control the House of Representatives, so it follows that Democratic registered voters are more likely than Republican voters to say most members deserve re-election. In the Oct. 14-17 Gallup poll, 59% of Democratic registered voters say most members deserve re-election, compared with 21% of Republicans. At 23%, independents' views are consistent with those of Republicans.

One reason for the modest uptick among all registered voters on this measure is the increase in positive responses among Democrats over the last several months. At one point in June, 45% of Democrats said most members deserved re-election, compared with 59% now. The percentage of Republicans who agree is also higher now than it was in March of this year, although little changed from May and June.

2010 Trend: Do Most Members of Congress Deserve Re-Election, Among Registered Voters, by Party ID

Regardless of the small fluctuations on this measure this year, the overall percentage saying most members deserve re-election remains well below 40%, a threshold that historically has been associated with major seat turnover in Congress.

In the polls closest to the 1994 and 2006 midterms, 38% of voters said most members deserved re-election. In both of those years, the majority party lost a significant number of seats and control of the House. The current 33% reading thus can be interpreted as a signal of significant pending change as voters operationalize these sentiments in the voting booth on Election Day.

Do Most Members of Congress Deserve to Be Re-Elected? % Yes, Deserves, Midterm Elections, 1994-2010

Voters More Positive About "Your" Member of Congress

Registered voters are consistently more positive about re-electing their own member of Congress than they are about re-electing most members of Congress -- a local versus national phenomenon that also occurs when the public is asked about such things as healthcare, education, and crime. Currently, 51% say their member deserves re-election, while 31% disagree. All four 2010 readings on this measure are the lowest of any midterm year since Gallup began systematically measuring this variable 18 years ago.

1992-2010 Trend: Does the U.S. Representative in Your Congressional District Deserve Re-Election? Among Registered Voters

Democrats are more likely than Republicans to say their member deserves re-election, although the margin is not as large as in response to the "most members" question.

2010 Trend: Does the U.S. Representative in Your Congressional District Deserve Re-Election? Among Registered Voters, by Party ID

Democrats are now slightly more positive in response to this question than they were earlier this year. Republicans became more negative in June, compared with a particularly high reading among GOP identifiers in May, and have remained at that level since.

Implications

The percentage of voters saying most members of Congress deserve re-election is 33% -- below the levels measured in 1994 and 2006, years that brought about significant change in the partisan composition of Congress. These data provide more evidence that the Nov. 2 elections will bring about a significant decrease in the number of Democrats -- the current majority party -- in the House.

Republicans and independents are substantially less likely than Democrats to say most members of Congress deserve re-election, which fits the ongoing body of evidence showing that non-Democrats express the greatest desire for changing control of Congress.

At the same time, with the approaching elections, Democrats are now more likely than they were at times earlier this year to say most members deserve re-election, no doubt reflecting their growing focus on the elections and what is at stake.

Despite larger currents of change, the majority of incumbents usually are returned to Congress election after election, and these data confirm the historical finding that American voters look more kindly upon their own representative than they do on Congress as a body. Still, just slightly more than half of registered voters say their member deserves re-election, a figure that all year has been lower than in previous midterms over the past 16 years. This too reinforces the conclusion that it is a tough year for anyone connected with Congress, local or national.

Explore more Gallup data relating to the upcoming congressional midterm elections, including Gallup's complete generic ballot trend since 1950, in our Election 2010 Key Indicators interactive.

Learn more about Gallup's likely voter models for the 2010 midterm congressional elections.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Oct 14-17, 2010, with a random sample of 935 registered voters, aged 18 and older, living in the continental U.S., selected using random-digit-dial sampling.

For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points.

Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones (for respondents with a landline telephone) and cellular phones (for respondents who are cell phone-only). Each sample includes a minimum quota of 150 cell phone-only respondents and 850 landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas among landline respondents for gender within region. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.

Samples are weighted by gender, age, race, education, region, and phone lines. Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2009 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older non-institutionalized population living in continental U.S. telephone households. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting and sample design.

In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

View methodology, full question results, and trend data.

For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit www.gallup.com.

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