Americans Across Party Lines Oppose Common Gerrymandering Practices

Majority believe redrawing of Congressional districts is often used to take power away from voters

Nov 07, 2013, 05:00 ET from Harris Interactive

NEW YORK, Nov. 7, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Ask a person on the street what they think of Congress, and you likely know what sort of response you'll get. The Harris Poll did and the response was more dismal than ever, with only 4% of Americans giving a positive assessment of the overall job Congress is doing. And yet when the midterm election season arrives next November, many in the political community are predicting that not much will change. While unpopular as a whole on a national level, many members of the House of Representatives hail from districts where the deck has been carefully stacked in their favor through redistricting – often in favor of one political party or the other. The process is often referred to as "Gerrymandering," and a recent Harris Poll indicates that Americans may have had their fill of it, with majorities across party lines affirming a desire to see the power to influence district boundaries out of the hands of those with a vested interest in the results.


In fact, over seven in ten Americans believe (71% - 48% strongly so) that those who stand to benefit from redrawing congressional districts should not have a say in how they are redrawn. And while Americans are regaled on a regular basis with tales of partisan divisions, U.S. adults are united in this perspective, showing comparable views when compared by both political affiliation (74% Republicans, 73% Democrats, 71% independents) and underlying political philosophy (69% Conservative, 71% Moderate, 73% Liberal).

These are some of the results of The Harris Poll of 2,368 U.S. adults surveyed online between October 16 and 21, 2013 by Harris Interactive. (Full results, including data tables, can be found here)

The moving of district lines
For most states – those with adequate populations for more than one member of the House of Representatives – district lines are examined every ten years to see if they need to be redrawn, after the decennial census. The idea is to make sure districts' populations are being accurately represented, and the next such opportunity will come along after the census of 2020. But when that time comes, how will the process actually be implemented? How would it be implemented if it happened today? And, perhaps more importantly, how do Americans think it should be implemented? While most states put the decision in the hands of their lawmakers – with the majority party holding the majority of the power – only 35% of Americans identify this as the method most states use; the highest percentage (41%) are unsure.

But how do Americans think states should make such decisions? Hint – not the way most do it now, as only 2% of U.S. adults say that the decision should rest with state legislatures, with majority party having the most say in the process. The highest percentage – by an exponential margin – feels that an independent commission emphasizing geography over political affiliations should to so (50%).

  • This preference is especially strong among Baby Boomers (61%) and Matures (62%), though it remains the strongest selection among Echo Boomers (37%) and Gen Xers (46%) as well.
  • Similarly, while men (59%) are more likely than women (43%) to see this as the best of the scenarios presented, it nonetheless remains the top choice for both groups.
  • But the most important difference may be the one that isn't there, with Republicans (50%), Democrats (52%) and Independents (52%) showing a united front, with support for this approach outpacing the next highest response – not at all sure – by a roughly 2-to-1 margin (22%, 24% and 26%, respectively). 

Tentatively representative?
Fewer than half of Americans (45%) believe their politics are fairly represented by the congressional representative from their district, and only 12% strongly agree with this sentiment.

  • Only one generational segment – Matures (ages 68+) – agree at a majority level that their politics are fairly represented (54%), with the remaining generational segments all showing significantly lower levels of agreement (39% Echo Boomers, 45% Gen Xers, 46% Baby Boomers).

Majorities of Americans believe that dividing up congressional districts is a way for state politicians to influence national politics (71%) and – more importantly – that redrawing districts is often used to take power away from American voters (64%).

  • Among political parties, this last sentiment resonates most notably among Democrats (70%), who are more likely than Republicans (63%) or Independents (61%) to agree that redrawing districts is often used to take power away from American voters – though it is important to note that majorities of all three groups agree overall.
  • Similarly, though majorities of Americans of all three political philosophies agree with this sentiment, Liberals (71%) are more likely than either Conservatives (61%) or Moderates (62%) to do so.

Factoring for minorities
Just over four in ten Americans (42%) agree that it's alright if a district has to be drawn strangely to allow for a minority to have accurate representation.

  • Generationally speaking, Echo Boomers (50%) are more accepting of this approach than any other segment (39% Echo Boomers, 38% Gen Xers, 35% Matures).
  • Agreement is stronger among Democrats (52%) than among either Republicans (33%) or Independents (39%).
  • Similarly, Liberals (54%) are more likely to agree that this is appropriate than Moderates (43%), who in turn are more likely than Conservatives (30%) to agree with this.

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This Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States between October 16 and 21, 2013 among 2,368 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents' propensity to be online.

All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, Harris Interactive avoids the words "margin of error" as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Interactive surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in the Harris Interactive panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of Harris Interactive.

Product and brand names are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective owners.

The Harris Poll® #80, November 7, 2013
By Larry Shannon-Missal, Harris Poll Research Manager

About Harris Interactive
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SOURCE Harris Interactive