In politics, Americans hate the players, not the game

"Don't hate the player, hate the game," Ice-T famously rapped. But when it comes to Congress, Americans take the opposite view.

10-18-2013-4

A new Pew Research Center poll released Friday shows that a majority of Americans blame lawmakers for the problems that plague Congress, not the political system in which the operate. Fifty-eight percent say the system is fine and that members of Congress are the issue. Just 32 percent blame the system.

Americans have increasingly blamed lawmakers, not the system, for dysfunction in recent years, as the chart above shows. And there's little disagreement across party lines, with majorities of Democrats (64 percent), Republicans (57 percent) and independents (55 percent) holding members of Congress more accountable for problems than the political backdrop of their actions.

The poll was taken from Oct. 9-13, just before lawmakers reached an agreement to reopen the government and avoid hitting the debt ceiling.

So what does it all mean? Two things. One, the public isn't as fed up with the political and governing framework itself despite the many declarations that "the system is broken." What's broken, in their view, is the people who are running it.

Which leads into the second big takeaway: Here's yet another reason incumbents should be on notice this cycle. Thirty-eight percent of Americans say they do not want to see their own member of Congress reelected in 2014, according to Pew data released this week. That's the highest percentage wanting to toss out their own member in more than two decades of Pew surveys.

Sean Sullivan has covered national politics for The Washington Post since 2012.

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Natalie Jennings · October 18, 2013