Numbers, Facts and Trends Shaping Your World

Congress, the Parties, and the Anti-Incumbent Mood

As voters look toward the 2012 congressional elections, anti-incumbent sentiment is running at or near record highs. Just 20% of voters say they would like to see most members of Congress reelected in the next congressional election. Two-thirds (67%) think most members of Congress should be replaced. This figure exceeds – by double digits – previous highs set in 1994, 2006 and 2010.

As is generally the case, voters are more positive about their own congressional representative than about Congress at large. Half (50%) of those polled say they would like to see their own representative reelected while 33% say their representative should not be reelected. Still, this figure is roughly equal to the level of anti-incumbent sentiment in 2010, when 58 incumbents lost reelection bids – the most since 1948.

The level of anti-incumbent sentiment among Republican voters is particularly notable. Despite having won a majority in the House of Representatives last year, most Republicans continue to favor a sweeping overhaul of congressional membership. Fully 70% say that most members should be replaced. This finding stands in stark contrast to how members of the party with a House majority have felt in recent elections. Republicans in 2006, and Democrats in 2008 and 2010, favored reelecting most, with only a small share advocating the sweeping overhaul that Republicans do today. In those years, one party controlled both the House and Senate, which is not the case today.

The level of anti-incumbent sentiment among independents is extensive. For the first time on record, more than seven in ten independents (73%) say that most members of Congress should not be reelected. Just 37% of independent voters would like to see their representative reelected to Congress while 43% would not. By contrast, a majority of Republicans (57%) and Democrats (60%) say they would like to see their member of Congress reelected. Read More