Battleground Poll: 71% Say Congressmen Put Party’s Interests Over Nation’s Interests

July 27th, 2007 Posted By Pat Dollard.

In a week in which an argument between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama dominated the political headlines, a new survey offers a warning to all politicians that the American people have entered this campaign with a wholly cynical view of the political process.

The Battleground Poll is a long-running bipartisan project that has regularly taken the temperature of the electorate. The newest report, issued by Republican Brian Tringali of the Tarrance Group and Democrat Celinda Lake of Lake Research Partners, includes several startling indicators of a political system in distress.

Majorities of Americans believe most politicians are not trustworthy and hold an unfavorable view toward them in general. That was in line with what many surveys have shown.

Even more striking was the answer to the question of whether Americans believe their own member of Congress puts partisan politics ahead of constituents’ interests. Fully 71 percent said partisan politics and 63 percent strongly hold that view.

Because Americans generally hold their own member of Congress in much higher regard than they do the institution — and still do by most estimates — the answer to that question shocked the team that produced the survey.

Lake called it “downright flabbergasting and a very, very serious warning” to all politicians that the national political environment is highly unstable. “It’s a warning to all the candidates that they have to straddle these two worlds: effectiveness and not being an insider,” she said.

Tringali said he and Lake were equally struck by the pessimism they found about the future. A plurality (38 percent) believe their children will be worse off in the future and only a third said they “think their own children will be better off than they are right now — a drop of 7 points since January.”

Tringali noted in his analysis of the findings that it would be “hard to overemphasize” what a sea change this represents in the attitudes of a country that long has prided itself on its optimism.

More surprising is where the pessimism is most intense: among white Americans rather than African Americans or Latinos. Tringali said pluralities of African Americans and Latinos believe their children will be better off than they are. Only 29 percent of whites believe that will be the case; 38 percent believe their children will be worse off.

In the past, Lake said, it was parents without college educations who tended to be more pessimistic about their children’s futures. Now that has spread to parents with college degrees. “Blue collar parents think my kids may lose their jobs to Mexico and white collar parents think my kids will lose their jobs to India,” she said.

The war in Iraq, violence in the broader Middle East, fears of global climate change and the unsettling effects of global economic competitiveness all contribute to making this a period of extraordinary unease among the electorate.

What are people looking for? The Battleground Poll, which is co-sponsored by George Washington University, asked which qualities they prefer in their politicians:someone who is willing to find “practical, workable solutions” or someone who exudes “strength of values and convictions.” By 2-1, those surveyed said they want someone working to get things done.

Could that be a backlash against President Bush’s governing style? After the 2004 election, strategists argued that the voters had rewarded the president for being clear about his convictions, even if they didn’t always agree with his policies.

This poll suggests weariness with politicians who appear inflexible, particularly when things aren’t going well in Iraq or elsewhere. The most recent Washington Post-ABC News poll found eight in 10 Americans said ‘no’ when asked whether they believed Bush was willing enough to change positions on Iraq.

The other finding of note in the Battleground Poll was growing disenchantment with Democrats in Congress. Tringali called it “an awfully short honeymoon” for a party that just took over the House and Senate in January. Lake noted, “Voters voted for change and still haven’t gotten that.”

The clash between Obama and Clinton may make good sense to those in the middle of it, but the survey provided a timely reminder that the landscape in this campaign is extraordinarily unstable. Points scored today may make candidates and their handlers feel good today, but there could well be a long-term cost in deepening attitudes among voters who already hold these politicians in low regard.

-Dan Balz

9 Responses

  1. A. S. Wise- VA

    …Particularly in this day in time :evil:

  2. jack.douglas

    These three will allways put their own self intrest ahead of the safty of our country and our troops. They and those of their ilk are traitors and should be dealt with as such.

  3. Marc

    At the risk of sounding juvenile….what the hell….NO DUH!!!

    This next election is going to be interesting. I really don’t think there are enough crazy people in the country to cement a solid veto proof majority for these demagogues, let’s hope not anyway.

  4. EZRider

    Sound juvenile cuz it’s true. Congress is full of self-righteous pricks on both ends. Obama is a disgrace. Listen to one of his speeches. All he does is pander some party BS, regurgitate questions, and then rile the crowd up about nonsense issues without offering any direction or solution. He’s the easiest target as of late, but this crap is prevalent in both parties. We need some balls on Capital Hill. I’m tired of people pointing out problems and offering nothing. My disdain for politics is reaching new heights and I fear it won’t be peaking any time soon.

  5. John Goodrow

    What’s the punishment for being a traitor to this counry again?

  6. Dan (The Infidel)

    No…really? What politician is not out for themselves…or out to buy votes? There are few pols of character anymore.
    Perhaps the founding fathers were reading the tea leaves when they set an example for pols by placing themselves on self-imposed term limits.

    Some of these trolls in Congress won’t leave even when confined to a wheelchair enfeebled and adle-minded.

    Time to limit their terms. We can do that by adding a referendum to the election in 2008, mandating term limits for our State Reps.

    If every legal voter in every state would agree to doing this, we could infuse Congress with some new blood…and put some of the power of Congress back where it belongs: in the hands of the people.

  7. Future0311

    We need statesmen, not politicians. REAL leaders, not just people in a position of leadership.

    The sooner people realize that, the easier it will be to throw these clowns out of office.

  8. everydayjoe

    “Term limits” is definitely th primary starting point for Ethics reform. (…what’s that?)

    Then, IMO, there needs to be better restrictions on Earmarks; seems like the only way Congress can come to a consensus on any particular issue, these days, is to “buy off the votes” with special interest money, - projects totally unrelated to the legislation/bill “at hand.”

    Thirdly, someone seriously needs to table a discussion on special interest lobbying/lobbyists, and their “unique brand of influence.”

  9. Steven D

    Only 71%?

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