Thursday, November 06, 2014

A Thought on the Election

The Purple Districts on the Census District Map were those found to be competitive in a recent study. Source.

I quote from an article in the Washington Post last year focusing on the 2012 election:
In 2012, Congressional approval averaged 15 percent, the lowest in nearly four decades of Gallup polling. And yet, 90 percent of House Members and 91 percent of Senators who sought re-election won last November. 
The seeming paradox between the low regard with which people hold Congress and the high rate of re-election of incumbents is explained well by new data released by Gallup on Thursday that points to a simple reality: People hate Congress but (generally) like their Member of Congress. 
Gallup found that 46 percent of respondents said they approved of "the way the representative from your congressional district is handling his or her job" while 41 percent disapproved.  That's in spite of the fact that overall Congressional approval was at just 16 percent in the same survey and hasn't been higher than 24 percent since the start of 2011. 
Even more fascinating, Gallup asked a different set of respondents if they could name their Congressman and his/her party and then followed up with a question on whether they approved of the person. 
Roughly one in three people (35 percent) could name their Member of Congress -- that was surprisingly high, at least to us -- and, of that group, 62 percent approve of how their Member of Congress is going about their job while 32 percent disapprove. "Americans who say they can name their congressional representative skew older, more highly educated and somewhat Republican," writes Gallup's Elizabeth Mendes.
The 2014 election, a mid term election, had a smaller turnout than that of 2012. Proportionately fewer women, young people and minorities turned out to vote.

So why are members of Congress almost always reelected, even though people don't like the job that the Congress as a whole is doing?

  • People not only don't know what their Congressman is doing, they don't know who he/she is.
  • Is it that incumbents have more name recognition and can more easily raise funds (because they are more likely to be elected than their opponents and will have more seniority if elected and thus more power)? Probably that helps.
  • There are very few competitive districts. People tend to live in places occupied by others with the same political affiliation, and where they are not doing so, the states often create safe districts. So people vote their party and the representative of that party in their safe district for that party is usually the incumbent.
And I suspect that the recent Supreme Court Citizens United decision which allows corporations to fund campaigns across the country has aided the Republican Congressional candidates in this election. I understand the $4 billion was spent on the campaigns!

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