Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Incumbents in Trouble


Especially worrisome for members of Congress is that the proportion of Americans who approve of their own representative's performance has fallen sharply. Traditionally, voters may express disapproval of Congress as a whole but still vote for their own member, even from the majority party. But 55 percent now approve of their lawmaker, a seven-percentage-point drop over three months and the lowest such finding since 1994, the last time control of the House switched parties.

"That's dramatic," said Republican consultant Ed Rollins, who was White House political director under President Ronald Reagan.

In a small boost for Bush, his approval rating inched up to 40 percent, two percentage points higher than in June and seven higher than in May, suggesting he may have arrested a slide that deeply unnerved Republican lawmakers and strategists. But Bush's standing remains weak for a president in a midterm election year and problematic three months before Election Day.


The poll mirrored results of surveys at this point 12 years ago, just three months before Republicans swept out Democratic majorities from both houses of Congress. Fifty-three percent now call themselves anti-incumbent, while 29 percent describe themselves as inclined to reelect lawmakers -- almost precisely the same percentages as in June 1994.

In another echo of 1994, the poll showed Congress remains broadly unpopular, with six in 10 Americans disapproving of its performance. The only consolation for members is that the 36 percent who approve represents a slight bump up from May, when the institution hit a 10-year low.

The generic ballot question, asking voters in general which party they would support in November, remained unchanged from the spring, with 52 percent favoring Democrats and 39 percent supporting Republicans. The lead narrows to 10 points among those who say they are closely following their local races.


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