Republicans and Democrats agree: Their own member of Congress isn’t part of the problem


A woman casts her 2012 ballot at a voting booth in a gymnasium at the Palisades High School in Pacific Palisades, Calif. (Michael Nelson/EPA)

The American people claim they really, really hate Congress. We're a little skeptical.

Want proof? According to a new Pew Research Center poll of voter attitudes, 69 percent of people would like to see most members of Congress sent packing in the 2014 election. That's up 13 points since the last midterm in 2010. And ... wow.

When it comes to their own members, though, only 36 percent say the same. That's up just two points from four years ago and not much higher than in 2006. Clearly, people aren't lining up to toss their baby out with the bathwater.

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Of course, it's well-established that people's aversion to Congress often doesn't extend to their own member of it. After all, my guy/gal isn't part of the problem; it's those other losers. Which a big reason more than 90 percent of incumbents -- and often much more -- get reelected.

That's one reason. The other big reason is that many Americans' default is simply to hit the "reelect" button. And it's actually a strikingly bipartisan/nonpartisan impulse.

Witness the below chart. As expected, Republican voters in GOP-held districts and Democratic voters in Democratic districts say their member deserves reelection.

What's fascinating, though, is that nearly half (47 percent) of Democrats in GOP districts say the same. And so do 34 percent of Republicans in Democratic districts. I.e. it's not just partisans and some politically casual independents who are defending their own member; it's a lot of their constituents from across the aisle.

Those numbers seem quite high for an American electorate that is supposed to be so polarized.

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Maybe their connection to their own member is just that strong. Or maybe they have no idea which party their member of Congress belongs to (the poll shows only slightly more than half of Americans can correctly answer this question).

Either way, it's pretty clear that, however much Americans hate Congress, they're hair-trigger response, when in doubt, is to vote for two/six more years.

Which is a big reason why Congress won't be truly overhauled any time soon.

Aaron Blake covers national politics and writes regularly for The Fix.
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