“Anti-incumbent” sentiment

Yeah, it’s a bad year for incumbents.  They’ll probably only win re-election to Congress about 90% of the time instead of 95%.   I’m awfully tired of hearing the puditocracy look to interpret everything this way.  Voters do not go to polls thinking, “I’ll vote for this guy, he’s the incumbent.”  They vote for the person who’s name they recognize and the person who they may know have done things for their district.  Far more often than not, that’s the incumbent.  In the same way, it’s highly unlikely voters are saying “I’ll vote against this guy, he’s an incumbent.”  Yes, incumbents are more vulnerable this year for a variety or reasons, but to chalk it all up to some sort of hazy “anti incumbent” sentiment is both wrong and lazy journalism.

UPDATE: Oh, yeah, almost forgot, meant to link to a Monkey Cage post on this.

I’ll plot the percentage from the poll closest to the election against the percentage of House incumbents who were reelected in 1992-2008.


There is a relationship between responses to this item and the reelection rate (and it’s statistically significant, in fact). But the relationship is substantively very small. Perhaps the best evidence is the predicted reelection rate I calculated based on the 1992-2008 data, plugging in the most recent Gallup poll, in which a record 40% declared that their member did not deserve reelection. What is the predicted incumbent reelection rate?



About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

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