Janie for Congress

Sep 21, 2010 6:50am

Imagine the horror: Little Janie wants to grow up to run for Congress.

It might not be as bad as it sounds – the pay’s not bad, the perks better. But don’t try selling mom and pop on the idea: Seven in 10 Americans in our new ABC News/Yahoo! News poll have better plans for their kids.

The result – see the full poll here – underscores the disrepute into which Congress has slipped. Just 25 percent in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll approve of the way it’s doing its job, and a near-record 58 percent are disinclined to re-elect their own representative.

Add in the public’s general, recession-fueled disgruntlement with all things political and it’s no wonder the ABC News /Yahoo! News survey reached its result: Just 25 percent of Americans would want their child to grow up to be a candidate for Congress. Seventy-one percent say no thanks.

There are some differences across groups, but not very big ones. Support for the notion peaks in the Northeast, at 33 percent; among Democrats, at 32 percent; and among nonwhites, at 30 percent. But across every group evaluated in the survey, a minimum of 62 percent would rather see their kid to pick another line of work.

Anti-incumbency being what it is these days, those parents may be hoping their little ones can land a steadier job. On the other hand, the work may be steadier than they think; incumbent re-election rates in the House of Representatives since 1946 have ranged from 79 to 98 percent, averaging a robust 93 percent.

But there could be other factors at play. The average cost of a winning campaign for the House of Representatives was $1.4 million in 2008, per Federal Election Commission filings reported by opensecrets.org. For first-timers (that is, non-incumbents) it was $1.8 million. That’s a chunk of change to land a job that pays $174,000 a year – with the risk, of course, of losing.

Not to mention the obvious headaches if you do land in office: Contentious issues. Constant fundraising. Constituent complaints. And, oh yeah… the polls…

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