Americans aren’t likely to know much about their elected Representative.

Few know their Representative’s name, and barely half know his or her party affiliation. Nor are Americans likely to have a strong opinion of their Representative, one way or the other.

Yet no matter who they are—male or female, conservative or liberal, Trump- or Clinton-voter—they are likely to believe their Congressman is overpaid.

These are some findings from our Americans and their Representatives poll—the first in a series of public opinion polls exploring civic literacy and Americans’ understanding of their government and relevant political issues.

Key Findings
  • Less than half of Americans can name their Representative, yet 65% believe their Representative is overpaid.
  • Just two-thirds of Americans who voted last November believe they had the opportunity to elect a U.S. Representative when they voted. Males are significantly more likely than females to believe they had this opportunity.
  • Self-described conservatives are more likely than liberals or moderates to know their Representative’s name and/or party affiliation.
  • Twenty-three percent of Americans who voted for a Representative last November cannot name their current Representative. Self-described liberals are more likely than conservatives or moderates to have voted “blind” in this manner.
  • Self-described moderates are less likely than conservatives or liberals to have contacted their Representative.

The findings in this report are based on an April 2017 survey of 575 American citizens conducted by Haven Insights, a Washington DC-based survey market research firm. By design, the survey’s sample approximates the gender, age, income, race, Hispanic origin and geographic region demographic parameters retrieved from the 2010 United States Census.

Section I: General Knowledge

In general, Americans aren’t likely to know much about their Congressional district’s Representative. Most blatantly, while just over half (56%) of Americans know their Representative’s party affiliation, only one-third (37%) know their Representative’s name (figure 1).

When asked about how much Representatives are paid ($174,000/year), Americans do possess a decent intuition despite knowing little about their Representative personally. The majority believes Representatives earn an annual salary somewhere between $100,000 and $250,000 annually (figure 2).

 

Finally, among Americans who voted in the 2016 presidential election, 20% are unsure whether they had the opportunity to elect a U.S. Representative for their Congressional district. An additional 14% claim they did not have such an opportunity (in reality, of course, 100% of voters had this opportunity) (figure 3).

Section II: Beliefs & Opinions

Though Americans don’t know much about their Congressman, almost two-thirds are likely to believe their Congressman is overpaid (figure 4).

Americans also tend to have neutral views toward their elected Representative. If they do have a non-neutral view, they are slightly more likely to have a positive view than a negative view (figure 5).

Section III: Differences by Political Affiliation

In general, conservatives are slightly more informed than liberals or moderates about their Representative. Among conservatives, 46% know their Representative’s name (compared to 33% among liberals) and 62% know their Representative’s party affiliation (compared to 57% among liberals). Self-reported moderates are less likely than both conservatives and more likely than liberals to know their Representative’s name or party affiliation (figure 6 & 7).

With regard to Americans’ feelings about their Representative, conservatives are significantly more likely than liberals to have a positive view of their Representative. Moderates are the most likely of the three groups to have neutral feelings about their Representative (figure 8).

Section IV: Differences by Gender

By and large, few differences exist between males and females with regard to perceptions and understanding of Congress. One striking difference, however, is that males are more likely to believe they had the opportunity to vote for their Representative last November. This opportunity, of course, was available to all voters (figure 9).

Generally, beliefs and opinions about their elected Representatives are not likely to change between males and females. Both are likely to believe the Representative is overpaid, and both exhibit similar uncertainty about how many of the House’s bills actually become law.

Survey Methodology

The analysis in this report is based on online interviews, conducted in English on April 24, 2017, among a national sample of U.S. citizens, 18 years of age or older, living in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The survey was conducted by Haven Insights, a Washington, DC-based survey research corporation.

By design, the sample matches gender, age, race, Hispanic origin and region to parameters retrieved from the 2010 United States Census.

The survey’s interviewees were sourced from eight different U.S. online panel providers. All responses were validated with unique project PID, unique IP address, Imperium RelevantID digital fingerprinting and TrueSample Service to ensure all interviewees are unique and to prevent fraudulent respondents from entering and completing studies.

Upon closing the survey instrument, the response data was examined and cleaned to remove responses that failed Haven Insights’ internal quality thresholds for length of interview (LOI),

The online interview took an average of three (3) minutes for interviewees to complete. All interviewees were compensated, according to their own terms, for their time spent participating in their interview.

The error attributable to sampling that would be expected at the 95% level of confidence for this survey’s total sample is +/- 4%.

Sample sizes and sampling errors are available for other subgroups are available upon request.

In addition to sampling error, one should note that question wording can introduce error or bias into the opinion poll findings.

Haven Insights LLC is a market research firm located in Washington, D.C. To obtain a copy of this survey instrument, or for more information about this and other studies, email info@haveninsights.com.