More Americans view extensive Washington experience as a negative trait in a presidential candidate than a positive one, according to a new poll, a marked turnaround from years past.
The Pew survey out Monday found that 30% of Americans would be less likely to support a candidate with extensive experience in the capital, compared to just 19% who said they’d be more likely to support such a candidate. The results mark a reversal from when Pew asked the same question in 2007, when just 15% said they’d be less likely to support a Washington insider and 35% said they’d be more likely to. In both years, a roughly equal amount said it wouldn’t make a difference.
The poll results could have particular significance for the 2016 GOP presidential primaries, since Republicans (and independents) are particularly unimpressed by Washington experience, with 36% saying they’re less likely to support a D.C. insider and just 15% more likely.
Partisan gridlock in Washington and continued brinksmanship like last year's government shutdown are partly to blame for the decline in popularity of D.C. pols. A similar measure going back decades reveals a sharp decline, beginning in the Obama era, in how many people view Washington experience positively. In 1987, 66% told Pew that service in Congress was better preparation for the presidency than being governor of a state. That number fell to 55% by 2007, then plummeted to 44% in 2014. An equal number this year say being a governor is better preparation. The results bode well for potential candidates like New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.