Voters Give a Thumbs-Down to Their Own Lawmakers
Policy + Politics

Voters Give a Thumbs-Down to Their Own Lawmakers

REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

In yet another sign of public disgust over a dysfunctional and divided Congress, a record low percentage of registered voters say their own House members deserve another chance – while even fewer believe that most other members should be reelected.

A new Gallup poll shows that only 46 percent of voters approve of their own congressmen, while a dismal 17 percent believe most other members of Congress deserve to be reelected.

The 17 percent level of approval is well below the roughly 40-percent threshold that has historically been associated with major electoral turnover, according to Gallup. This suggests Congress could be headed for a “wave” election or major shakeup in the November 2014 mid-term elections.

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There’s no way of telling right now whether the Republicans who control the House or the Democrats who control the Senate will pay a bigger price this fall for voter disgust over a Congress that hit rock bottom last year in the amount of legislation passed. It also shut down the government for 16 days last October in a fight over Obamacare funding.

In an appearance Thursday on NBC’s “Tonight Show,” House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) called the government shutdown a “very predictable disaster” that he warned fellow Republicans to avoid, but ultimately went along with it at the behest of colleagues intent on a standoff with President Obama over the Affordable Care Act.

“When I looked up, I saw my colleagues going this way. And you learn that a leader without followers is simply a man taking a walk,” he said. “So I said, ‘You want to fight this fight? I'll go fight the fight with you.’ But it was a very predictable disaster.”

Boehner, in his typically blunt fashion, offered some revealing insights into the challenges of ruling conservative Republicans in the House.

“Some members, I have to be the big brother figure,” he said. “Some, I have to be the father figure. Others, I have to be the dean of students or the principal. Some of them, I have to be the Gestapo.

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“I like to describe my job as trying to get 218 frogs in a wheelbarrow long enough to pass a bill,” he added. “It’s hard to do.”

The highest ranking Republican in government, however, was careful to praise Tea Party members of Congress who he said bring “great energy to the political process.” But he took pot shots at a number of conservative political organizations – such as Club for Growth, among others – who purport to represent the Tea Party but are actually misleading or exploiting House members.

“There’s nothing I could do that was conservative enough for them,” Boehner said.

Despite Gallup’s most recent troubling findings about public discontent with Congress, the polling organization stressed that the political direction of any potential electoral wave is difficult to determine. That’s because self-identified registered voters of both parties largely agree that most members of Congress do not deserve re-election. Eighteen percent of Republicans, the majority party in the House, say most members deserve re-election, identical to the percentage of Democrats saying so.

“Voters’ wrath appears not to be directed toward one party in particular, as much as toward any incumbent member of Congress,” according to Gallup.

Many political experts predict that the GOP will retain control of the House, largely because of the benefits of redistricting, fundraising prowess and historical trends. Republicans also have improved their odds for winning back control of the Senate this fall, although they have blown similar advantages in the past.

“But with so few voters saying they are willing to reelect their own representative, it suggests that many officeholders will be vulnerable, if not in the general election, then perhaps in the host of competitive primaries soon to take place,” according to Gallup.

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