Voters Hate Incumbents, Except ...

Jeff Alworth

Pew has the results of a fascinating poll out. They offered respondents a list of factors about a candidate and asked whether it would make them more or less likely to vote for that person. Expressing their broad dissatisfaction, voters reliably said just about everything would make them less likely to vote for a candidate than more likely. (A pox on all their houses!) Those things that were net negatives included this laundry list:

-33% - Voted for TARP
-27% - Supported by Sarah Palin
-14% - Is an incumbent
-11% - Supported by Tea Party
-9% - Supported by Barack Obama
-6% - Has never held office

So you're damned if you're supported by pretty much anyone, damned if you're a newbie, and damned if you're an incumbent. (Interestingly, though voters were almost exactly divided on health care, a one-point plurality said voting for it was a net positive.)

But it's that incumbent number to which I really want to draw your attention. It confirms everything we know, right? Just a terrible time for office holders. Ah, but wait! There was one overwhelmingly positive characteristic a candidate can have coming into this election. Care to guess? I'll put it below the jump so you can ruminate on it for a moment.

You figured it out, right? Candidates with a record of bringing government projects and money to the home district enjoyed a massive, 42% favorable rating. Pork, schmork--we elected you to bring home the bacon, man!

(Psst, incumbent Dems, take note.)

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    You're screwing up the narrative Jeff. Don't you know that all incumbents are bad? Except that it is likely that over 90% of incumbents will be re-elected.

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    The media shtick is utterly stupid, and simply tries to create psychodrama. The only really important factor is who actually votes. The illusory "enthusiasm" factor is way overplayed, and the polls shift based on the creative or not-so creative-imagination of the pollster in constructing the voter screen. The more Americans learn about the radical Republican tea-party agenda to privatize social security, privatize medicare and veterans health care, to make criminals out of women who get abortions who are raped, to criminalize contraception,to get rid of the Americans with Disability Act, to further drive us into deficit and debt with more tax breaks for the wealthy,and to make war on the Islamic world, the more Dems and other people with any sanity will actually vote.

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    Isn't this the same as the polls that show people hate congress but love their congressperson.

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      In a certain sense, although it's a more nuanced data point. We've heard for weeks now--as the primaries rolled on--that Republicans are down on pork. The AK election seemed to be a rosetta stone to the media that this year Would. Be. Different. Americans hate the deficit; they hate pork.

      Yeah, right.

      (Personally, I have no problem with pork. I think it's an inequitable but useful way to apportion a relatively small amount of funds to local projects. Otherwise, the feds would never spend anything on local projects. And I'm a liberal! Spending is good!)

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        In a possibly off topic reply:

        I wish our tax rates were reversed in re: state/fed.

        I would be much happier paying 9% to the Fed and 15-35% to Oregon. The closer the money is, the easier it is to oversee it(in theory).

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          And yet, less media oversight in Salem than in DC.

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            Not really sure our "media oversight" is working all that well anymore, at least in re: traditional media.

            Smaller local "new" media seem to be the ones that are the "true" journalists today. Heck, even partisan political blogs do a good job of watching the goings on of local politics.

            I am sure your concerns could be addressed.

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    I'll guess we'll see about Obama's effectivenes when BHO comes to Oregon to stump for Kitz in a couple weeks.

    I doubt we'll see Sarah Palin anywhere near Team Dudley.

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    So voters like it when their Congressperson engages in what Bastiat called "legal plunder" -- the zero sum game of taking money from other districts for one's own. Not sure why Jeff is proud of or pleased with this.

    Michael Pingree has the right of it -- voters hate "the bums" ... except for OUR bum.

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      And the best ones at it are Republican states like Alaska or Texas. Voters want someone who can help their state or their district. Nothing wrong about that. The federal power projects that made the pacific northwest, or the federal highway system, or sewers, water systems, basic infrastructure rely on federal funds. Only the radical ideologues have a problem with it, and only for other states, not for themselves. Joe Miller in Alaska says all those federal programs are unconstitutional and evil, except when he is collecting for a farm subsidy or his wife is collecting unemployment compensation, or when Alaska gets a military base.

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      Thomas, just to be clear, the post itself takes an agnostic view about pork. Just pointing out the findings.

      However, I am separately unoffended by pork. ("Proud," maybe not.) Let's follow the ifs. Do you support federal spending on local projects? If yes, you need a mechanism. (Almost everyone does--the very vocal but tiny libertarian minority dissents. Fair enough.) If you want your representative to be able to deliver funds to your state, pork spending is a pretty good way to do it. They just tuck a bit in a bigger bill and it comes, untouched, back home. The alternative is to subject each of these proposals to the larger Congress, which would result both in vastly diluted and/or mangled funds coming back, or would grind things to a halt.

      Pork-barrel spending is a tiny fraction of the total budget. Deficit hawks who obsess on it lose credibility points because they howl at the little stuff while ignoring the real issues.

      (A separate matter is defense funding, which goes through the appropriations process, but which functions as a massive payout to state vendors of guns and equipment. That I wouldn't mind seeing change.)

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    The conventional belief is that TARP was a Dem. program that increased the deficit by trillions. TARP was a GOP program created by the Bush administration, voted for by the GOP leadership, and it will end up costing nothing and possibly making money. And despite all the outrage most economists, according to the Statesman Journal, rate it successful in preventing Great Depression 2.0. Despite all this it seems to be the greatest liability in this election season. But as I learned in my Pol. Sci. classes many years ago, the rational voter does not exist. In this instance the irrationality exists across left and right.

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