Partisan difference on whether Congressional indictments should lead to resignation

August 31, 2018, 2:00 PM GMT+0

Democrats to think Congresspeople should resign, while Republicans think they should run again

Multiple members of Congress, both from the Senate and the House of Representatives, Republican and Democrat, have resigned since January 2017, some to join the Trump administration, some to seek higher office, and some after being accused of sexual harassment. Respondents in the latest Economist/YouGov Poll aren’t sure they did the right thing. Just about as many think they should have stayed in office, run again ad let the public decide, rather than resign immediately.

Two of the most prominent resignations were that of two Democrats – Minnesota Senator Al Franken and Michigan Representative John Conyers. While the names of these men were not part of the question, Democrats are the ones most willing to agree that resignation in these circumstances is the right thing to do. Republicans, on the other hand, say that those charged with harassment should not resign but should let the voters decide.

There are two cases of Republican members of the House who have been indicted, but have not resigned. Rep. Chris Collins of New York has been indicted on charges of insider trading, while Rep. Duncan Hunter has been indicted on charges of using campaign funds for personal expenses. When asked about these types of charges, again without including the individual’s names, Democrats favor resignation, while Republicans propose leaving it to the voters.

Large majorities haven’t heard a lot about these two cases, so when asked directly about what Representatives Collins and Hunter should do, more than half had no opinion. But as in the hypothetical cases, Democrats were more likely than Republicans to favor resignation. Republicans were evenly divided on the best approach.

A Democratic Senator, Robert Menendez of New Jersey, was tried on bribery and corruption charges last year. The jury failed to reach a verdict, and in January a judge acquitted him of some of the charges. Later the Department of Justice dropped the rest of the charges. This is another question on which in principle Democrats are far more likely than Republicans to believe resignation would be the right response. In the specific instance, both Republicans and Democrats believe Menendez should resign, though many have no opinion.

Congress is the least popular branch of government. In this week’s Economist/YouGov Poll, only 15% say they approve of the way Congress is handling its job. Republicans, whose party controls both branches, are only twice as likely to approve. As low as 15% appears, it is the highest overall rating for Congress in Economist/YouGov Polls since the early months of the Trump Presidency. The GOP 30% approval rating is the highest in all of 2018.

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