House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) speaks while Rep. Jeb Hensarling… (Michael Reynolds / EPA )
Another day, another poll that shows that public antagonism toward Congress is at record levels. But as the 2012 election draws closer, the latest numbers suggest that incumbents, particularly Republicans, could pay a high price next year.
According to a survey released Thursday by the Pew Research Center for People & the Press, two in three voters say most members of Congress should be voted out of office in 2012.
The House flipped to Democratic control in 2006 and then back to the Republicans last year as the public has continually registered its disapproval regardless of which party has been in charge.
And although the GOP regained power in the House last year by running against the highly prolific 2009-2010 congressional session -- which produced the Democratic healthcare overhaul and the Dodd-Frank Wall Street regulation bill -- voters now seem irked that Republicans haven’t done enough legislating.
The Pew poll said the GOP is taking more of the blame for Congress’ paralysis. A record 50% of respondents said that the current Congress has accomplished less than other recent Congresses, and by nearly 2 to 1 (40% to 23%), they blamed Republicans more than Democrats.
The results come amid yet another public impasse over a spending bill and a payroll tax cut -- and the endless intractability on both sides appears to be exhausting voters’ patience. Republicans, in particular, appear to have soured on the huge House majority their votes helped establish last year when the party took more than 60 seats and elected dozens of first-time legislators.
According to Pew, seven in 10 Republicans say most members of Congress should be replaced, along with 73% of independents and 60% of Democrats. It’s a stark contrast to other recent election cycles, Pew said, when voters from the party that held the majority said most members should keep their seats.
To be sure, the public isn’t giving Democrats high marks either, but, according to the survey, voters view Republicans as more extreme in their positions, less likely to work with the other side, less able to manage the federal government and even less ethical, even though the GOP-led House has not been rocked by any major scandal.
House leaders in recent weeks have appeared to noticed the public's grim mood and have attempted to appear more collaborative. The successful passage this week of House Speaker John Boehner's payroll tax extension package was viewed as a sign that Republicans are eager to overcome their internal divisions in the House.
Still, because Democrats control the Senate, that hasn't made ending the persistent gridlock any easier.
The Pew survey was conducted Dec. 7-11 among 1,521 adults.