« Blame The Polls | Main | Things Happening Elsewhere »

September 21, 2006

Geography Matters

It's old news that even while voters overwhelmingly loathe Congress, they tend to think their Congressman is doing a pretty good job. The new NYT/CBS poll sustains that fine tradition of voter confusion. Only 25 percent of voters approve of the job Congress is doing, but a full 53 percent approve of the job their representative is doing. That said, 48 percent think it's time to give someone new a chance in their district, while only 39 percent want to re-elect. Encouraging stuff.

Here's what's more surprising: This poll has trend lines stretching back to the 80's, so it's easy to compare and contrast. Turns out that in 94, year of the Republican Revolution, 56 percent of voters thought their representative was doing a good job, and the disapproval number, now at 29 percent, was at a mere 17 percent. Even weirder, in 98, 64 percent approved of their congressman. So going by those numbers, Democrats should win some 60 or so seats in November.

All of which is to say, this question may not matter very much. The swings in approval appear very minor (from the low 50's to the low 60's), and they don't seem to correspond to actual electoral outcomes. Which probably makes sense. After all, if 90 percent of voters think their congressman is doing just peachy, but the remaining 10 percent are clustered in a few dozen districts, you've got a landslide on your hands. In midterm elections, it's not the number of the disaffected, but their geographical concentrations that matters.

September 21, 2006 in Polls | Permalink


It seems that people's feelings about Congress reflect how they feel about the country. The approval number for Congress tracks pretty neatly with the right track/wrong track number. According to the latest WSJ poll, only 27 percent of the Americans think the country is headed in the right direction. This is probably especially the case in midterm elections, when voters lack the capacity to express their feelings about the President.

Voter confusion? I don't think so. I notice a tendency on your part to condemn the great unwashed. Voters in California were dumb; now we're all confused. And by the way, aren't you a voter? I guess you mean voters other than you.

Posted by: david mizner | Sep 21, 2006 8:25:21 AM

There was a story similar to this one in The Examiner, DC edition, a couple of days ago. Did not see any overt fabrications, but did not really examine the story beyond identifying it as an overly wordy rewording of LBJ.

Seems the new generation of reporters is lacking a bit of historical knowledge on the "all politics is local" business. LBJ used to say that all of the time. EVERY election cycle when news people, from whatever political stripe, think their stripe might not win as big as they want they 'discover' that all politics is local.

Perhaps it is not a lack of knowledge, perhaps it is just a way to fill column space?

Posted by: Guy Montag | Sep 21, 2006 9:19:45 AM

The 1994 general-approval numbers and the election results can be helped to reconcile with this fact:

[A] postwar record [...] 67 congressmen [...] did not seek reelection. [TNR link.]

Posted by: DonBoy | Sep 21, 2006 8:29:44 PM

but who's to say those trends ('94,'98) apply to republican majorities and/or incumbents, i.e. portending a democratic shift?

remember, the biggest shift from d to r in '94 occurred among "downscale" white male voters, e.g. those with LESS than college degrees. one suspects republicans, including bush, continue to maintain "core" support from those voters, both male AND female. and they DO vote. and they DON'T admit faults, just like THEIR president.

so why would they change now? to them, it's the OTHER guy, not THEIR guy. we don't make mistakes. THEY do.

just call them generation U. they are UNaccountable and UNwilling to change.

this (november) isn't a "framing" issue nor an up/down vote on the war. generation U has already made up their minds. their response: WE DON'T CARE.

we elected bush TWICE. he's our guy whether we "approve" of him or not. we've elected republicans for the last 10 yrs because they DOMINATE discussions of "national security" on tv (while democratic "movers" COMPLETELY miss the boat on media complicity; chronically paralyzed by lack of unity or collective will to "level the playing field" with targeted, sustainable media/ad/sponsor boycotts to correct mass-media pro-republican bias; e.g., our disorganized, latent, ineffectual response to ABC 9/11 propaganda).

Posted by: mentecaptus | Sep 21, 2006 9:41:46 PM

we've elected republicans for the last 10 yrs because they DOMINATE discussions of "national security" on tv

correction: THEY've elected republicans for the last 10 yrs because mass media -- ESPECIALLY television news --- tilts coverage of EVERY national election to republican advantage (talking points, policy pro/cons, etc), while democrats grasp, flounder, contort, flip-flop in groveling desperation for ANY traction on a media playing field tilted AGAINST them from the start.

that's why democrats lose on the big stage. and they'll continue to lose until they develop efffective means, ways to BLUDGEON mass media where it hurts, including targeted boycotts of ad sponsors who could apply proxy pressure on media monoliths, their news programming & news reporting.

Posted by: mentecaptus | Sep 21, 2006 9:56:05 PM

The comments to this entry are closed.