Will Voters 'Throw the Bums Out' in 2014?

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By Samuel Smith , CP Reporter
August 9, 2014|10:15 am
U.S. House of Representatives (Photo: REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

Members of the Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives depart after a procedural vote leading up to a late-night session to deal with a budget showdown with the Democratic-controlled U.S. Senate, at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, September 30, 2013.

Although a recent poll published Tuesday finds that the majority of Americans disapprove of how his or her own member of Congress is doing their job, odds are that will not stop them from voting the majority of incumbents back into office during the 2014 midterm elections.

The Washington Post-ABC News phone poll conducted from Jul. 30 to Aug. 3 asked 1,029 adults whether they approved of the way his or her own member of the U.S. House of Representatives was handling their job. For the first time in the 25-year history of the polling on this question, more than half, or 51 percent, of those polled said they disapproved of the actions of their own House representative. Only 41 percent said they approved of their congressman, while eight percent had no opinion. The poll had a plus or minus 3.5 percentage point margin of error.

The Washington Post-ABC poll provides more validity to a Gallup Poll issued in January finding that only 46 percent of Americans felt that their member of Congress deserved re-election.

According to a Washington Post graph that charts people's own representative approval rating along with incumbency re-election percentage, since 1990 the percent of incumbents that have been re-elected has never dropped below 85 percent.

In 2010, own representative approval rating was at 51 percent, yet 85 percent of incumbents were re-elected. In 1994, a year that Republicans took control of the House with a net gain of 54 seats, the approval rating of one's own representative was at 51 percent, yet 90 percent of incumbents were re-elected.

Between the parties, the Republican incumbents looked to be in most danger of losing their seats in the recent poll. It showed that only 35 percent found the Republican party to be favorable, while 60 percent found it unfavorable.

When you combine that low percentage of support with a movement by the Tea Party wing to support challengers in the Republican primaries, the primaries should have served as the best opportunity to knock off incumbents, but the majority of incumbents survived.

With just eight states still yet to hold their primary elections, the House Republicans remained largely intact except for one huge loss. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor lost his Republican primary election in June to newcomer Dave Brat for Virginia's 7th Congressional District seat.

The Washington Post claims Cantor grew more concerned with the national issues than the issues in his own backyard and lost touch with his Richmond-area base. He focused less on grassroots campaigning and more on anti-Dave Bratt advertisements.

CBS News Elections director Anthony Salvanto said in a TV interview that when congressional election turnouts are low it can cause a strong group of activists to have an extreme political relevance.

"This was a widespread rebuke of not just Eric Cantor but probably sending a message against the House GOP leadership in general," Salvanto said. "It's a great turning point in American politics because with a small turnout but with committed activists they see that they can have great power that echoes nationwide."

However, now that most Republican incumbents have advanced to the general elections, the majority of them should have no fear in losing in losing their general elections as most voters will stick to party lines.

Although the Democratic Party fared better in the poll (only 49 percent found the Democrats favorable), The Washington Post still gives the Republican Party a 99 percent chance of retaining the House. They also have an 82 percent chance of retaining the Senate.

Even though the public favorability of both parties is below 50 percent, incumbents still retain a true advantage in congressional elections.

 

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