Fully 76% of Americans think that most members of Congress do not deserve to be re-elected according to a Gallup poll released today.
Only 20% believe they do. Both numbers are records for the Gallup survey which has been asking the question for 19 years.
This finding is from a Nov. 28-Dec. 1 Gallup poll, adding to the broad negativity toward Congress Americans have expressed this year. These include historically low congressional job approval ratings, low ratings of confidence in the legislative branch of government, and low ratings of confidence in Congress as an institution.
The 76% who say most members of Congress "do not deserve to be re-elected" is six points higher than the previous high of 70%, measured in August.
The trends on this measure have been progressively more negative since 2004. Voters were also more negative than positive in response to this measure through most of the early 1990s, but at least half of voters said most members deserved to be re-elected in Gallup polls conducted between 1998 and 2004.
A substantial majority of Republican (75%), independent (82%), and Democratic (68%) voters agree that most members of Congress do not deserve re-election -- a sign of rare consensus about the legislative body in which both parties currently hold a leadership stake.
As has historically been the case, voters are much more positive about the U.S. representative from their own congressional district than they are about "most members of Congress," with 53% saying their representative deserves to be re-elected, while 39% hold the opposite view.
"Throw the bums out - except the bum that represents me" has been true for ages. Congress can have the worst approval rating in history, but the voter is somehow able to separate their feelings about the entire legislature from their opinion of their own guy - who is almost certainly just as much a part of the problem as the rest of them.
This bias is usually not related to how much pork the representative brings home. It is much more a function of partisanship and ideology. If the Congressman reflects their basic values, as well as the electorate's core beliefs, it is more likely that they will be seen in a favorable light.
At bottom, it is a reflection of just how well the parties draw congressional district lines. As evidenced by the fact that about 98% of incumbents who run win re-election, neither party wants contested votes. Rather, they are willing to draw safe seats for everyone, thus assuring the system works to the advantage of the incumbent.