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The most important number in politics today

55

That's the percentage of people who said that the honesty and ethical standards of members of Congress are either low or very low, the worst score of any profession tested, according to new numbers from Gallup.

In recent years, the numbers of people who view Congress (and its denizens) as morally bankrupt has risen sharply. In 2000, just 21 percent rated members low or very low when it came to honesty and ethical standards but by 2007 that number had more than doubled to 45 percent. It increased nine points in the last year alone.

The rise in distrust corresponds with a series of scandals that have hit Congress ranging from the enormous (Jack Abramoff and his ilk) to the prurient (John Ensign) in recent years. As Gallup notes, a similar elevation of low ratings for members of Congress took place in the early 1990s amid the House bank and the "Keating Five" scandals. (Worth noting: At the height of the 1990s distrust, 46 percent of the Gallup sample rated Members of Congress as low or very low on honesty and ethics.)

The numbers reinforce our belief that 2010 is shaping up as an anti-incumbent election where anyone with a "Rep.", "Sen.", or "Gov." before his/her name could be in trouble -- regardless of political affiliation.

People not only don't like Congress -- as evidenced by scads of low approval numbers -- but they also don't trust politicians and don't think members share their values.

That is a dangerous cocktail for anyone who sits in an even mildly competitive district or state.

The stunning defeat of Nassau (N.Y.) County Executive Tom Suozzi (D) and near-loss of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (I) gave us a glimpse into the depth of voter discontent with the status quo.

The onrushing electoral troubles of previously safe politicians like Gov. Ted Strickland (D-Ohio) or Rep. Dan Lungren (R-Calif.) shows that this is a widespread phenomenon that isn't likely to dissipate before the 2010 midterm elections (if then).

Politicians beware.

By Chris Cillizza  |  December 9, 2009; 1:48 PM ET
Categories:  Most Important Number  
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Comments

bsimon1,

At the risk of being labeled Marxist, I lean toward the economic argument myself.

I think there are probably some cultural trends involved too. One of the more interesting I can think of is the growth of cable news during that period, particularly Fox. Check out the numbers here:

http://www.stateofthemedia.org/2005/narrative_cabletv_audience.asp?cat=3&media=5

Of course, "correlation does not imply causation." Still interesting, though.

Posted by: nodebris | December 10, 2009 12:21 AM | Report abuse

nodebris:
"Starting in the early nineties, the belief in the dishonesty of Congress started going down sharply.

Starting in the early 2000's, the belief in their dishonesty started going up sharply"


Early 90s: Dem scandals; Contract for America.
Early 00s: end of bipartisanship, Repub scandals, holding votes open, growth of filibusters.

-or-

90s: economic recovery
00s: wage stagnation

Posted by: bsimon1 | December 9, 2009 11:04 PM | Report abuse

I think that's what most interesting about the trends in the Gallop report are the two big turning points evident.

Starting in the early nineties, the belief in the dishonesty of Congress started going down sharply.

Starting in the early 2000's, the belief in their dishonesty started going up sharply.

This latest number is really a continuation of a clear trend that started about 2000-2001.

Kinda interesting when you think about it that way. Does this number reflect something beyond or in addition to a pure appraisal of the honesty/dishonesty of Congress? If so, what?

Posted by: nodebris | December 9, 2009 9:33 PM | Report abuse

Feel free to comment on the exclamation points!!!

==

No need.

Just a note, if you're tying to out-immature Jake then you REALLY have your work cut out for you.

Posted by: GoldAndTanzanite | December 9, 2009 9:08 PM | Report abuse

can't even spell *made up neologisms* correctly

Posted by: GoldAndTanzanite | December 9, 2009 7:49 PM | Report abuse

The reply of the illitarati says it all. what a bunch of total losers!!!

Feel free to comment on the exclamation points!!!

Posted by: ZOUK | December 9, 2009 7:42 PM | Report abuse

It's pretty hard to imagine someone who works with mathematics who can't spell "Schrödinger." The cat metaphor is well-known even to the half-educated but even half of them can spell it, even if they can't manage the umlaut.

But "Schroendinger?" That's not even close.

Give it up, zouk .. you're an unemployed mental patient, and we all know it.

Posted by: GoldAndTanzanite | December 9, 2009 7:26 PM | Report abuse

Is Snow White drinking today?

Posted by: margaretmeyers | December 9, 2009 7:17 PM | Report abuse

The idea of "natural" has no scientific meaning. The concept comes from an advertising campaign and has entered the vernacular with undeserved esteem.

Homosexuality is as natural as anything could be, invariant across time, culture, and even species, far to stable to represent an anomaly, and no more "unnatural" than left-handedness (and exhibiting the same distribution).

If you don't like it, zouk, why don't you go punch a wall.

Posted by: GoldAndTanzanite | December 9, 2009 7:03 PM | Report abuse

"suasage"

"indiacations"

And this is a guy who claims he gets paid for using his mind

Posted by: GoldAndTanzanite | December 9, 2009 6:59 PM | Report abuse

Worthless to point out a lie to the liar, but hey zouk you were banned too.

Seriously, about 90% of your posts are expressions of hate for other posters here, the other 10% are hate for your president. You don't like us, fine, you call us moonbats every day, so why do you still show up?

What's the point?

Nobody likes you, hardly anyone reads your posts at all, you don't post anything worth the trouble to read, and since you hate the rest of us why not just move on?

Nobody will miss you.

Posted by: GoldAndTanzanite | December 9, 2009 6:55 PM | Report abuse

Only one person was ever banned from this rite. She was an idiot. Her name was chrsissuxcox.

She loves the taste of suasage. Not natural. As all other indiacations with this loser. Not natural.

Posted by: snowbama | December 9, 2009 6:30 PM | Report abuse

In the end, all the loons on this site wish is that you look in the box. Never mind the entire endevour is already deAd. They are desperate for attention.

==

"Schödinger's"

"endeavor"

Every day you whine and complain, next day you're back. With more whining and complaining, and more squeals for attention.

If CC doesn't ban you it could only be that he isn't reading the comments at all, so you can save your time.

Might consider saving ours too, and find someplace more to your liking to surf.

Posted by: GoldAndTanzanite | December 9, 2009 5:59 PM | Report abuse

So here's my funny observation of the day:

the so called liberals who think themselves so progressive are so
opionated
rightous
ignorant

That they seem like Shroendingers cat. If you look in the box, they're dead. If not, no one cares. Perfect metaphor for libs.

In the end, all the loons on this site wish is that you look in the box. Never mind the entire endevour is already deAd. They are desperate for attention.

Posted by: snowbama | December 9, 2009 5:35 PM | Report abuse

The angry, petulant simp has deluged the thread with sludge again. The loon leftuinent is at the ready with a portfolio of idiocy.

Some blog you got here Cilizza. A moonbat ego site.

==

Every day you cry the same bitter tears, and the next day you're back whining again.

To borrow a phrase from the creeps you look up to, "nobody FORCES you to read this blog."

Why don't you mosey over to stormfront or some WSJ blog and post among people as nasty and dumb as yourself? You'd be a lot happier away from here.

But you'll still be a mental patient.

Posted by: GoldAndTanzanite | December 9, 2009 4:57 PM | Report abuse

The angry, petulant simp has deluged the thread with sludge again. The loon leftuinent is at the ready with a portfolio of idiocy.

Some blog you got here Cilizza. A moonbat ego site.

Posted by: snowbama | December 9, 2009 4:52 PM | Report abuse

jameshauser writes
"While the reasons in WS were more local than national... I believe there is a sense amongst voters everywhere that incumbent members at all levels are not properly managing their tax dollars and are looking to outsiders to voice their frustrations."


Maybe, and maybe not. The mayors of Minneapolis and St Paul won reelection handily, as did the Minneapolis City Council members. We didn't have anything statewide on the ballot this year. Next year will hinge on two things: 1) the economy (duh), 2) how the State Legislature makes up the projected $1.2B shortfall. I suspect the GOP will suffer here, mightily. Whether statehouse races will impact US House races remains to be seen.

Posted by: bsimon1 | December 9, 2009 4:51 PM | Report abuse

I can see how most people would think that given the way the Republicans are acting. One day they are against medicare cuts, the next day they are against medicare expansion.

Posted by: JRM2 | December 9, 2009 3:47 PM | Report abuse

"TXProud, can you elaborate on what these czars have done that you find so distasteful?

Posted by: DDAWD | December 9, 2009 3:19 PM"
---
Not to mention there is not a single official in the Obama administration with the title of (fill in the blank) Czar.

It is a media invention.

Posted by: JRM2 | December 9, 2009 3:46 PM | Report abuse

It isn't a war on Christmas -- it's trying to force christianity down everyone's throats that's the problem.

==

Another burning vital issue, huh?

No, another straw man. I don't know anyone who admonishes anyone else for saying "Mary Chris Mess."

You can wish each other whatever sappy insincere greeting you want, you can stand on your head and rub your tummy while you say it, just don't make me listen to those idiotic tunes for a whole god damn month.

Posted by: GoldAndTanzanite | December 9, 2009 3:30 PM | Report abuse

On The Savage Nation yesterday evening (whatever, it keeps me awake on the drive, the alternative is country "music"),

==

Radio is a wasteland. Get an iPod interface for your dash, load up your 'Pod with good harsh electronic noize, and fight back against the twinkle bells and the pa-rumpa-pum-pum.

Posted by: GoldAndTanzanite | December 9, 2009 3:27 PM | Report abuse

"and the rest of Obama's czars. "

TXProud, can you elaborate on what these czars have done that you find so distasteful?

Posted by: DDAWD | December 9, 2009 3:19 PM | Report abuse

Again, I don't think it's 'anti-incumbent' on the left, for the most part. Yes, there is certainly some grumbling, and some talk of 'staying home' on election day among the folks I know, but generally speaking, they are not talking about new candidates, and they are more worried about letting rightwingers win if they don't vote tha punishing their reps. So I don't see much effect.

On the right, though, there is intense anti-incumbent sentiment, and serious challenges being mounted.

Posted by: drindl | December 9, 2009 3:16 PM | Report abuse

In my home town of Winston-Salem, NC, two of the races in for the City Council featured a younger generation of African American candidates defeating older African American incumbents in the predominately democratic districts of the East and South Ward's. While the reasons in WS were more local than national (Dell plant closure, baseball stadium not finished in spite of millions from the city), I believe there is a sense amongst voters everywhere that incumbent members at all levels are not properly managing their tax dollars and are looking to outsiders to voice their frustrations.

Posted by: jameshauser | December 9, 2009 3:14 PM | Report abuse

Has there ever been a real "anti-incumbent" election? CC says that 2010 will be one, and I've seen other Internet commentators call for one, but it seems improbable. I can't imagine the mindset that ALL incumbents are bad, and anyone who doesn't currently hold office is superior to anyone who does hold office. So has this ever happened before, or is it just wild speculation?

Posted by: Blarg | December 9, 2009 2:58 PM | Report abuse

It isn't a war on Christmas -- it's trying to force christianity down everyone's throats that's the problem.

Posted by: drindl | December 9, 2009 2:53 PM | Report abuse

Oh by the way, I prefer people say 'Happy Chanukah" to me, but i don't try to legislate people's holidays for them.

Sanford and Ensign are nothing. I am talking about BIG corruption, like Abramoff and Enron. Nothing on the D side compares.

Posted by: drindl | December 9, 2009 2:51 PM | Report abuse

Oh by the way, most people prefer saying Merry Christmas and get annoyed when they are chastised into saying happy holidays

Posted by: TexasProud1 | December 9, 2009 2:45 PM | Report abuse

drindl,

What are you talking about? I guess 'Freezer Funds Jefferson', Tax Cheat Geithner, Rangel, and Daschle. Murtha's private airport, Mollohan's earmarks for his buddy, and don't forget Blago's Senate Seat auction sale or even Van Jones and the rest of Obama's czars. Sure the Republicans have had some pretty noticeable scandals (Sanford and Ensign) but you have to be a pretty blind partisan to not recognize the pretty explosive scandals on your side of the aisle.

Posted by: TexasProud1 | December 9, 2009 2:43 PM | Report abuse

Don't worry, Congress is using your tax dollars to protect Christmas from all the evil people who want to 'ban' it:

HOUSE GOP IS PRO-CHRISTMAS.... It was just six weeks ago that House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) decided he was fed up with empty, meaningless congressional resolutions. These largely symbolic measures are taken up all the time -- it's been routine fare for years -- but Boehner decided they're now evidence of Democratic negligence. "These are your hard-earned tax dollars at work," Boehner scoffed.

He apparently didn't persuade his own caucus. This week, 19 House Republicans unveiled a resolution (H. RES. 951) to make it clear that Congress likes Christmas.

Whereas Christmas is a national holiday celebrated on December 25; and

Whereas the Framers intended that the First Amendment of the Constitution, in prohibiting the establishment of religion, would not prohibit any mention of religion or reference to God in civic dialog: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That the House of Representatives--

(1) recognizes the importance of the symbols and traditions of Christmas;

(2) strongly disapproves of attempts to ban references to Christmas; and

(3) expresses support for the use of these symbols and traditions by those who celebrate Christmas.

That'll show the anti-Christmas crusaders. Is it any wonder sane people are disgusted by antics like this?

Posted by: drindl | December 9, 2009 2:40 PM | Report abuse

I believe we have the most corrupt government on the face of the Earth. This includes African and South American Dictators. What makes ours so corrupt is its size, influence, total disregard for the interest of its citizens, and mostly, they codified their corruption into statute indicating they anticipated being corrupt. When a congressmen stands in front of a group of constituents and says “I need your help to continue fighting for what you want” he is soliciting a bribe. When a lobbyist tells a congressman “his clients want to help him continue fighting for what they both believe in” he is offering a bribe. It goes on all the time, with no concern from either side if the goal is good for the country or not.

Posted by: GabsDaD | December 9, 2009 2:32 PM | Report abuse

It is endemic, mark, that is true. BUT it is not equivalent. In recent years, a far higher percentage of Rs have been involved in serious financial crimes than Ds -- BIG crimes that really hurt thousands of people or set off financial crisis across the country. From Abramoff to Enron, these were massive criminal undertakings. Jefferson was old-fashioned small-potato corruption. Not that it's right, but seriously, who is undermining the country more? And who will fight the hardest against changing the campaign contribution system so we could eliminate the inherent corruption?

Posted by: drindl | December 9, 2009 2:31 PM | Report abuse

On The Savage Nation yesterday evening (whatever, it keeps me awake on the drive, the alternative is country "music"), Tom DeLay was savaged for selling himself to JA "for a little white ball."

The Republican civil war has some potential for good?

Nah, the US Supremes have protected pay-to-play politics. Corporate $$$$ is protected speech. Tom Daschle, Dingell's Government Motors wife, the Clintons, Evan Bayh's Well Point wife (thanks bruf), Stevens may have been prosecuted though Palin was not, Bruno, Jefferson the list on both sides is endless.

Speaking in country music, don't believe your lying eyes? There are the ones who get caught and the ones who should be.

Posted by: shrink2 | December 9, 2009 2:30 PM | Report abuse

"And those were all republicans, weren't they?"

You know there are examples on both sides. Former Rep Jefferson was recently convicted. Rep Rangel is under investigation. Sen Baucus was in the news this week for recommending his girlfriend for an appointment. Gov Blago. Sen Burriss just had his wrist slapped. Gov Richardson escaped indictment, but the investigator explicitly said the lack of indictment should not be viewed as a statement of innocence.

Posted by: bsimon1 | December 9, 2009 2:25 PM | Report abuse

You see Lieberman, from the insurance state, using every lame excuse possible to not want a public option and ask what is his motivation? You have Republican memos that only talk about how to defeat Obama. Not how to defeat bad ideas, how to defeat a person they don't like while the country is in a difficult pinch. You hear the politicians worrying about costs, costs all but a small group have blithely ignored for three decades. You watch the Democrats, in honest to God power, do nothing but dither away passing nothing but bills that give more money to the already rich. And then they wonder why the electorate may be a bit dissatisfied. They are a bunch of clowns pulling a sick joke on the public.

Posted by: caribis | December 9, 2009 2:19 PM | Report abuse

shrink is correct - as he often is. Overlooking the marital issues, as I do, I find a higher % of Congressmen indicted and convicted of actual crimes than I do in any trade or profession.

Drindl, it is endemic, not partisan. Need I remind you of Jefferson's cold cash cache?

We reelect the indicted-but-not-convicted in the House, of course. Presumption of innocence lives for rich old guys, I guess. That's a good thing. Right?

Posted by: mark_in_austin | December 9, 2009 2:17 PM | Report abuse

Well, the poll should also ask how many people think this about their own representatives. It's easy for us to have poor opinions about the legislative body in general. We have never met these guys, never been through a campaign with them, only hear about them when they screw up. But these people keep getting re-elected? I'm sure you know why. Cause everyone likes his own guy, just not the other guys.

Posted by: DDAWD | December 9, 2009 2:13 PM | Report abuse

"The rise in distrust corresponds with a series of scandals that have hit Congress ranging from the enormous (Jack Abramoff and his ilk) to the prurient (John Ensign) in recent years. As Gallup notes, a similar elevation of low ratings for members of Congress took place in the early 1990s amid the House bank and the "Keating Five" scandals"

And those were all republicans, weren't they? But it's hardly surprising. Any party that characterizes itself as 'anti-government' isn't really going to try to practice 'good government', is it? They are more likely to try to destroy it to prove their point.

And their greed, incompetence and contempt for the jobs they were elected to do has worked to make government look bad to many -- just what they wanted. And in the meantime, they cynically raked it in.

Posted by: drindl | December 9, 2009 2:05 PM | Report abuse

Only 55%? This suggests up to 45% of the people in this country do not know what is going on if they think most Senators and Representatives are honest, ethical.

Posted by: Aprogressiveindependent | December 9, 2009 2:02 PM | Report abuse

"honesty and ethical standards of members of Congress are either low or very low, the worst score of any profession tested"

This is not a matter of opinion, it is a matter of fact. The question is why our bipartisan approach to crony capitalism, our problem, is getting worse.

Posted by: shrink2 | December 9, 2009 1:58 PM | Report abuse

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