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53% Say Elections Are Rigged To Help Incumbents in Congress


Voters are still wary of the congressional election process but just over half believe elections are fair to voters.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 53% of Likely U.S. Voters think most members of Congress get reelected because election rules are rigged to benefit incumbents. Only 17% believe most congressmen get reelected because of the good job they do representing their constituents. A sizable 30% aren’t sure which is the case. (To see survey question wording, click here.)

These findings have changed little over the past two years, highlighting voters' continuing distrust of the process. After all, the word “rigged” is a strong term to include in a survey question, and yet half the nation’s voters believe it applies to election rules for members of Congress.

The number of voters who believe the election process is fair also continues to hover around the halfway mark. Just 54% of voters now think American elections are fair to voters. Thirty-one percent (31%) say they’re not fair, and another 15% are undecided.

Favorables for the new Congress have fallen to the lowest levels since late 2008, and one-out-of-three voters (33%) now think a group selected randomly from the phone book would do a better job than the current Congress. Forty-five percent (45%) disagree and express more confidence in those currently in the Congress. Twenty-two percent (22%) are undecided.

These results are broadly similar to attitudes found a year ago and in 2008

The Political Class, perhaps not surprisingly, is much more supportive of the current system. Sixty-four percent (64%) of Mainstream voters think most members of Congress get reelected because the rules are rigged, but just nine percent (9%) of the Political Class agree. Eighty percent (80%) of Political Class voters say American elections are fair: Less than half (47%) of those in the Mainstream share that view.

A plurality (45%) of Mainstream voters think the phone book would produce a better Congress. The Political Class overwhelmingly disagrees, with 84% who think the current Congress is better than a randomly selected group.

Older voters are more cynical about the election process and more critical of the current Congress than those who are younger. Those who earn less than $75,000 a year are more inclined to think congressional elections are rigged than those who make more.

Most Republicans (54%) and voters not affiliated with either major party (57%) feel that election rules are rigged to benefit members of Congress, a view shared by a plurality (49%) of Democrats, too. But party members are more likely than unaffiliateds to think elections are fair.

Fifty-two percent (52%) of Democrats do not think a randomly selected group from the phone book would do a better job than the current Congress. But Republicans and unaffiliated voters are narrowly divided on the question.

Most voters continue to feel they have very little in common ideologically with the average member of Congress. But Republicans in Congress are now seen as more conservative than they were a month ago.

Forty-three percent (43%) of the nation’s voters believe that most members of Congress are corrupt. Only 27% disagree and doubt that most national legislators are that dishonorable. Thirty percent (30%) are not sure.

Voters overwhelmingly believe that most members of Congress are for sale, and over half think it’s at least somewhat likely that their own representative has been bought with cash or a campaign contribution.

Just 16% of voters feel that, generally speaking, it would be better for the country if most incumbents in Congress were reelected. Only 31% think their representative in Congress is the best possible person for the job.

Voters are also skeptical about the ability of Congress to address the nation’s problems. Two-thirds of voters say it’s unlikely any serious progress will be made on the nation’s fiscal problems before the 2012 elections.

Rasmussen Reports is an electronic media company specializing in the collection, publication and distribution of public opinion polling information.  We poll on a variety of topics in the fields of politics, business and lifestyle, updating our site’s content on a news cycle throughout the day, everyday.

Rasmussen Reports Platinum Members get an all-access pass to polling news, analysis and insight not available to the general public.

Scott Rasmussen, president of Rasmussen Reports, has been an independent pollster for more than a decade. To learn more about our methodology, click here.

The survey of 1,000 Likely Voters was conducted on May 9-10, 2011 by Rasmussen Reports. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence. Field work for all Rasmussen Reports surveys is conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, LLC. See methodology.

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©2011 Rasmussen Reports, LLC
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