November 6, 2006

Too Many Safe Seats?

10%

That’s the tiny percentage of Americans who, going into this week’s elections, said they had heard a lot about the concern among some politicians and political experts over the lack of competitiveness in U.S. elections. And while 71% of voters in districts with competitive House elections said the race was close in their district, a majority of voters (55%) in non-competitive districts also thought their local House races were shaping up to be close.

Concern among some politicians and political experts over the lack of competitiveness in U.S. elections is generally not shared by the public. Indeed, the public is only dimly aware of the debate over how boundaries are drawn for legislative districts. Going into this week’s elections, just 10% of Americans said they had heard a lot about this issue, compared with 89% who had heard little (38%) or nothing (51%) about it. Moreover, voters appeared to lack a clear sense of whether the elections in their own House districts were competitive or not. While 71% of voters in districts where there were competitive House elections this November said the race was shaping up to be close in their district, a majority of voters (55%) in non-competitive districts also thought their local House races were close. However, awareness of the competitive situation is much higher in Senate and gubernatorial races. The late October survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, in association with the Brookings Institution and the Cato Institute, also found that most Americans see a downside in electoral competition. Just 22% said that when politicians face tough competition for reelection it makes “them work harder to represent their district better.” By contrast, 62% said that tough reelection campaigns make politicians “focus too much on fundraising and campaigning instead of being a good representative.” Read More