Eye on Incumbents

Washington Matters

Eye on Incumbents

It's often said people may not like Congress but do like their own congressman. That's why this new national poll about middle class attitudes toward their own member of Congress is worth a look. ... 

On it's face it's not favorable at all. No, there's no throw-the-bums-out voter outrage coming. Most incumbents in Congress will be safe in November. I bet about 95%, regardless of party affiliation, are re-elected. That's in keeping with recent past elections.

That said, I find this new poll about middle class attitudes from the Drum Institue for Public Policy, a liberal-leaning social policy think tank, intriguing. Much of it is about attitudes of respondents toward their own congressman.

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 -- 77% disapprove of the job Congress is doing. (OK. That's in keeping with many other polls about Congress in general. Yes, Congress is roundly rebuked for all its partisanship and gridlock.)

Here are some other findings, though, that stand out about attitudes of respondents toward their own congressman:

 -- 44% of middle-income households disapprove of the job their own congressman is doing. This is nearly 50/50, even though most congressional districts are not swing districts. They tend to lean, often heavily, to one party's advantage. 

-- 47% of upper-middle income households disapprove of the job their own congressman is doing. You would think this kind of poll number might spur more strong challengers to run. But they don't. Only a few dozen races will be highly competitive this fall. 


-- 75% say they only hear from their member of Congress around election time. This is the case, even with all of the technology and free mail perks made available to lawmakers. Three in four feel in the dark about what their congressman is doing.

-- Also interesting, 72% of middle income households cannot name a single piece of legislation passed by Congress in the past two years that benefited them. (19% named the rebate checks intended as an economic stimulus)

And on every issue tested, a majority of middle class adults gave a negative mark to how their own member of Congress was performing on things such as economic development, the home mortgage and foreclosure crisis and gas and energy prices. Granted, a single congressman cannot solve all these issues, but you think they'd get a little more credit at least for their position on the issues and their effort to communicate to the home crowd.

Makes me wonder if the old line about how people like their congressman but not Congress might be more aptly worded, how people simply put up with their own member of Congress, even if they they don't like Congress as a whole. 

With numbers like these, I bet incumbents are glad voters don't receive election ballots with a "none of the above" option.