Throw the bums out! Even mine!
In a nutshell, that's how the country feels about members of Congress, according to a new Washington Post/ABC News poll. Fewer than one in four (22 percent) say they are inclined to reelect their representative in Congress, as support for incumbents has waned to its lowest point since the late 1980s. It's the latest sign that Americans not only hold Congress as a whole in low regard, they are frowning upon their own member, too.
Sixty-eight percent of Americans say they are inclined to look around for somebody else in the November midterm election. That includes majorities of Democrats, Republicans and independents.
We're seeing signs of dwindling enthusiasm about individual members for months. More than six in 10 Americans said it's time to give a "new person a chance" to represent them in Congress while just 29 percent said they felt as though their own member of Congress deserved to be reelected in an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll last fall.
Congress has suffered through record low approval ratings in recent months. There's been something for everyone to dislike: Democrats shook their heads at the government shutdown, blaming Republicans for the gridlock. Republicans have been displeased with Obamacare's recent problems and blame Democrats for passing the law. Meanwhile, Congress's productivity has slowed to a crawl, giving both sides one more thing to complain about.
Together, these factors may explain why fatigue with the legislative body has spilled over onto its individual players as well. Another reason seems to be the increasing distaste for sitting members among Republicans. The emergence of tea party vs establishment primaries during the past two election cycles reflects this reality. The Post-ABC poll shows that 69 percent of Republicans say they are inclined to look around, compared to 54 percent of Democrats.
Now, this doesn't mean Congress is going to experience massive turnover this year. It's hard to defeat an incumbent under most circumstances. Even in the wave election of 2010, 85 percent of incumbents won. There are still many natural advantages to being an incumbent. Access to fundraising by virtue of being powerful and high name recognition are two examples.
But what it does mean is that the days in which individual members were immune to the broader malaise about Congress is over. The sum of the parts is still less popular than the individual parts. But the individual parts aren't looking so great, either.
There's enough bad news to go around for both parties. The Post-ABC poll shows that voters inclined to look around are more likely to support Republicans, giving Democrats heartburn about protecting vulnerable seats. Among voters inclined to reelect their members, there is more loyalty toward Democrats, which isn't good news for Republicans hoping to play offense. In the D vs. R battle this midterm year, it's pretty much a wash.
In short, having "Representative" come before your name can hurt you no matter if an "R" or a "D" comes after it.
Scott Clement contributed