Back to previous page


Congress reaches new lows. Again.

By ,

Figures of Grief and History on the Peace Monument stand near the U.S. Capitol building July 31, 2011 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Astrid Riecken/Getty Images) One in an occasional series of posts looking at the most important number in politics; check out past “MINP’s” here.

<b style=”font-size:5em;color:red;float: left; margin-right: 12px;”>24</b>

Less than one in four Americans want to see Members of Congress re-elected in 2012, the lowest that numbers has been in two decades of Gallup polling and the latest sign that the election next November could see incumbents in both parties losing in droves.

Just 24 percent of people in a new USA Today/Gallup poll said that most Members of Congress deserved to be re-elected while 67 percent said they did not.

Among registered voters, the numbers were even worse. Just 21 percent said Member of Congress deserved re-election while 70 — yes, 70 — percent said they didn’t.

Those numbers suggest that 2012 — at least as of today — may be the rarest of elections: a pox on both parties.

Traditionally — as our own Aaron Blake has written — the unhappiness directed toward Washington generally or Congress more specifically is visited primarily on one party.

But, we are literally living in historic times as it relates to the unpopularity of Congress and the alienation people feel toward the nation’s capitol.

The numbers have led some seasoned political operatives to suggest we may well be through the looking glass in terms of congressional politics — that the idea of a double wave in which incumbents in both parties are voted out in 2012 is a real possibility.

There are caveats — as always.

The biggest one is that we are 15 months before the 2012 election and things can — and often do — change in the political world.

That said, Congress is in a sustained period of unpopularity and the re-elect numbers for the “most Members of Congress” question hasn’t been over 50 percent since June 2006. In that time we’ve weathered three straight wave elections — two benefiting Democrats (2006 and 2008) and one working in Republicans’ favor (2010).

The other major “yeah, but” often cited when dealing with re-election numbers is that while meager amounts of people say most Members of Congress should be re-elected, they are much more charitable when it comes to their own Member.

And, that’s true in the Gallup number. Fifty six percent of adults said they think their own member deserves another term — numbers much improved from the 48 percent who said the same in Gallup data just prior to the 2010 election.

But, remember that there are 83 freshmen House Republicans — the biggest freshmen class in more than six decades — many of whom have made little to no mark on their constituents as of yet.

So, while longtime Members of Congress may benefit from a “I hate Congress but like my Congressman” mentality, there are plenty of people all across the country who have absolutely no idea who represents them in the House and, therefore, aren’t likely to feel tremendous loyalty come 2012.

All caveats aside, it’s important to take note that we are dealing with record low approval and re-election ratings for Congress. What it will mean in November 2012 remains up in the air but you can be sure that anyone with “Rep.” or “Sen.” before their name is pressing the panic button right about now.

More on PostPolitics

Voting starts in Wisconsin recalls

Palin raps Obama for debt downgrade

Fact Checker: Paul Ryan misses the point

© The Washington Post Company