Bipartisanship for Congress: Americans would throw them all out

January 08, 2014, 2:13 PM GMT+0

Only a quarter of Americans would vote to re-elect their current Congress member, but most do think that Congress will find a way to avoid a debt limit crisis this year.

If Americans had their way, we could be in for a new regime in Congress after the 2014 election: according to the latest Economist/YouGov Poll only one in four registered voters say they would vote to re-elect the member of Congress who represents their own Congressional district. Twice as many would throw their own representative out.

Congress has suffered from low approval ratings for a long time (for the last two years, its approval rating mostly has been in single digits – and it is only 8% in this poll). The public’s desire to get rid of whomever is representing them in Congress crosses party boundaries: Republicans and Democrats would both “throw the rascals out.” Voters who identify as independents are especially negative. Independents frequently have been especially critical of Congress in polls and this week, more than six in ten independent registered voters say they would throw their own rascal out.

In addition, both those who think they are represented by a Democrat and those who think they are represented by Republican would vote against their respective incumbents.

So what’s wrong with this Congress? At the end of 2013, more than six in ten felt that Congress in 2013 accomplished less than usual. The public’s expectation for 2014 is for more of the same. Nearly half think Congress this year will do about as much (or perhaps as little) as it did last year, more than a quarter think it will accomplish even less.

There is public support for some legislation on immigration reform, gun control, and raising the federal minimum wage. But in all these areas more want to see legislation than expect there will be any.

Nearly half want stricter gun laws. But a majority of Americans believe that, just as in 2013, there will be no new gun control legislation.

More than half are in favor of immigration reform that gives illegal immigrants a pathway to citizenship if they pass background checks, pay fines and have a job. But only 41% expect some kind of immigration reform this year.

Seven in ten Americans support raising the minimum wage (though they divide on whether a federal minimum wage of $10.10 an hour, the bill now before Congress, is too much or too little). But only half believe Congress will be able to pass legislation that does this. Expectations may have been raised Tuesday when the Senate bypassed committee consideration of the minimum wage bill, choosing the have the bill brought directly to the floor for a vote next month. But the bill would still have to pass the Republican-controlled House of Representatives before it could became law.

Expectations don’t vary all that much by party, though Republicans are somewhat more likely than Democrats to think there will be gun control and minimum wage legislation. Those higher expectations may be more likely to indicate worries that there will be legislation in those areas: only one in four Republicans want stricter gun laws and less than half want the minimum wage to be increased. About three in four Democrats favor each of those proposals.

Independents resemble Democrats when it comes to expectations for bill passage in these areas; they fall between the two parties when it comes to their own preferences.

A partisan divide on immigration reform remains (Democrats favor the pathway to citizenship specified above, while Republicans oppose it), but expectations that Congress will pass immigration reform are similar for Republicans and Democrats. About four in ten think there will be reform legislation passed this year.

There is one bright spot when it comes to expectations: most Americans think that Congress will come through and raise the debt ceiling – something it will have to figure out how to do in the next month if it wants to avoid another government shutdown. Republicans, Democrats and independents overwhelmingly expect Congress will manage to accomplish this.

The public has little good to say about both parties and their Congressional leadership, though more think poorly of the GOP than of Democrats. 55% view the Democrats in Congress unfavorably; 66% feel that way about the Republicans. And more have favorable opinions of Democratic leaders Senator Harry Reid and Representative Nancy Pelosi than say they like Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker John Boehner. But all four Congressional leaders get negative assessments.

Full results can be found here.

Economist/YouGov poll archives can be found here.

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