House Incumbents at Risk, Poll Finds -- Percentage of Americans Who Approve of Their Representative Has Fallen Sharply
Most Americans describe themselves as being in an anti-incumbent mood heading into this fall's midterm congressional elections, and the percentage of people who approve of their own representative's performance is at the lowest level since 1994, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.
Two in three Democrats say it is time to begin decreasing troop levels in Iraq, although only one in four supports immediate withdrawal.
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.
[T]he poll's findings underline the challenge for Democrats. For all their disenchantment, most voters are not sure what the party stands for. Just 48 percent say Democrats offer a clear direction different from Republicans, while 47 percent say they do not. The public does not think that Bush or the Democrats have a clear plan for Iraq. Even a slight majority of Democrats say their party does not have an Iraq strategy.
What Democrats have to do, he said, is emphasize a break from Bush's direction in Iraq, even if they disagree about how. . . . "On the big question -- 'Should we stay the course or should we make a change?' -- it seems overwhelmingly the public wants a change," [says Mark Mellman, a Democratic consultant].
Some Republican strategists said they fear it may be enough for Democrats to hammer home on the troubles of the country. "There's just a frustration that a lot of things are going wrong and nobody in Washington understands," [says Republican consultant Ed Rollins, who was White House political director under President Ronald Reagan.] "Even though the Democrats haven't really picked up the ball and offered an alternative, the numbers keep getting worse and worse."
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.
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.