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Support for Congressional Incumbents Is Highest Since 2012

Support for Congressional Incumbents Is Highest Since 2012

Story Highlights

  • 59% say their personal representative in Congress deserves reelection
  • A much lower 35% say that most members deserve to be reelected

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Most Americans (59%) say the U.S. representative in their local congressional district deserves to be reelected, and 35% say the same for most members of Congress. Both figures are the highest seen since 2012 and are on the high end of what Gallup has recorded over the past decade. Still, fewer Americans support returning members of Congress to Washington today than felt this way in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Line graph. Americans’ opinions that their personal representatives vs. most members of Congress deserve reelection.

These data are from a Jan. 16-29 Gallup poll conducted less than 10 months before Election Day 2020.

Similar majorities of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents (61%) and Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents (60%) say that their local representative deserves reelection. But these groups differ on the question of whether most members of Congress should be reelected in November. While 43% of Democrats say that most members of Congress deserve reelection, a much lower 29% of Republicans say the same, likely an acknowledgment of the Democrats' current majority in the House.

Line graph. Americans’ opinions that all members of Congress deserve reelection, by party affiliation.

Gallup has found that supporters of the party controlling the U.S. House of Representatives are generally more likely to say that "most members" of Congress are deserving of reelection.

The current dip in Republicans saying most members of Congress deserve reelection, compared with their higher ratings when their party controlled the House in 2018, reflects the makeup of the now-Democratic-controlled House -- a House that also recently impeached the Republican Party's standard-bearer.

Views on Reelection Deservedness Largely Track With Reelection Rates

Actual U.S. House reelection rates have ranged between 85% and 98% since 1992, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The variation seen over the years in congressional reelection rates somewhat tracks with changes in Americans' attitudes about whether their own and most members deserve reelection.

Official reelection rates peaked in the election years of 1998 to 2004 -- a stretch of time when Americans' support for both their personal representative as well as most members of Congress being reelected were at high points. However, as public support for members' reelection fell over the next several years, so too did reelection rates, falling from 98% in 2004 to 85% by 2010. Since then, reelection rates have increased, as has public support for their own member of Congress, but not for most members of Congress.

American’s views that members of Congress deserve reelection compared to actual reelection rates.

Bottom Line

While most of the attention is being paid to this year's presidential race, the success of the elected president's initiatives next year will come down to whether Congress will support them -- which largely depends on which party controls Congress.

Most Americans say their personal representative should be reelected, but, as is typical, are much less likely to say the same for Congress at large. Actual reelection rates of House members are much higher than the public presumably favors, given their skepticism that most members deserve another term.

Democrats have a solid majority in the U.S. House of Representatives, and the elevated 59% of Americans saying their member of Congress deserves reelection augurs well for their bid to maintain their majority next year. This assumes, however, that the 59% holds for the remaining nine months before Election Day. If Americans still feel their member deserves another term at a similar level closer to November, this could mean a favorable environment for Democrats' prospects of maintaining power in at least one chamber of Congress.

View complete question responses and trends.

Learn more about how the Gallup Poll Social Series works.

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