New Poll Shows Strong Anti-Incumbent Feeling

A new survey released Wednesday highlights the dire state of incumbent candidates, showing that fewer than a third of voters are inclined to vote for their current representative, regardless of their party.

The Washington Post-ABC News poll found that only one in three Republicans and fewer than a quarter of independents are considering backing an incumbent in the upcoming fall primaries. Among Democrats, who currently have the majority in the House and Senate, opinion is evenly divided.

According to the poll, the Democrats are doing better now than they were two months ago, in the midst of health care negotiations. The public overall trust Democrats more than Republicans to handle major issues by a double-digit margin, and a majority see Obama as “just about right” in ideological terms. This shows the failure of repeated attempts to delegitimize Obama and paint him as more left wing that he is.

It also found that the push by the Obama administration to paint the Republicans as against financial regulatory reform and, therefore, against Main Street has paid off – more people trust Obama over the GOP to deal with health care, the economy and regulatory reform.

The nation divides down the middle on Obama’s achievements thus far, with a slight improvement in the negative ratings he has been receiving over the past months. Obama received his worst rating on the federal budget deficit, where four in ten people approve of his performance. The budget deficit is also where the Republicans come as a close second: 41 percent of people trust the GOP more, and 45 percent place more trust in the president.

For the first time since he became president, the independents’ opinion of Obama’s job performance has moved to being positive, one of the major shifts in public views in the past year.

Overall, the poll found that the Democrats only hold a slight advantage if registered voters were asked to vote today – 48 percent would vote for them, while 43 percent would vote for the GOP. Though this is still better for Democrats than their ratings in February, it signals a tough vote ahead; this figure is in line with the partisan split in the spring of 2006, when Democrats took the house, but is also close to the divide in 1994, when they lost their majority in the House.

According to the Washington Post, members of Congress face the most anti-incumbent electorate since 1994. The Democrats’ majority in Congress may lead them to suffer more severely from the anti-incumbent backlash, but is unlikely to leave any legislator unscathed.