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Incumbents Face an Increasingly Hostile Environment, Polls Show

In this Jan. 27, 2010 photo, voters cast their ballots for Illinois' primary at an early voting polling place in Chicago. AP

Incumbents up for re-election this year are facing a hostile environment, a set of new polls confirm today.

In a Gallup poll released today, 60 percent of registered voters said they'd rather vote for a congressional candidate with no prior experience in Congress than for a candidate with experience. That's nearly twice as high as voters who said they'd prefer a candidate with experience (32 percent).

Democrats were more likely to favor a candidate with congressional experience, at at 45 percent to 41 percent. Among Republicans, 71 percent would rather vote for a candidate with no experience.

The anti-incumbent sentiment is already apparent in this year's election cycle. Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Penn.) and Rep. Alan Mollohan (D-W.Va.) lost to primary challengers in their re-election bids, and Sen. Bob Bennett (R-Utah) lost at a state party convention. Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) may also fall victim to the anti-incumbent sentiment in the country today, in her Democratic primary run off against challenger Lt. Gov. Bill Halter.

Additionally, just 32 percent of voters surveyed in the Gallup poll said "most members of Congress" deserve re-election, one of the lowest levels since Gallup starting asking the question in 1992. Half of voters, though, said their own representative deserved to be re-elected.

A Washington Post/ ABC News poll, however, says that just 29 percent of Americans say they are inclined to support their House representative -- a figure lower than in 1994, when Democrats lost control of the House after 40 years in the majority.

Given that Democrats have solid majorities in the House and the Senate, they are expected to suffer from the current mood. However, voters are also displeased with Republicans. Six in 10 said in the Washington Post/ ABC poll that they have a negative view of Republican policies.

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