October 8, 1997 in Nation/World

Pay Raise Could Cost Lawmakers At Voting Booth Poll Shows Most Americans Don’t Think Members Of Congress Deserve Increase

Associated Press

Most Americans believe they should get cost-of-living pay increases every year, but they sure don’t feel that way about members of Congress. In fact, some feel so strongly that they say they’ll vote against any lawmaker who supports a raise.

That expression of sentiment comes in an Associated Press poll taken just after Congress hesitantly approved legislation making possible a $3,072 pay increase for itself, the first in five years.

The bill squeaked through House and Senate last week and awaits President Clinton’s signature. Clinton hasn’t said what he will do, but a spokesman said the president thinks the question is one for Congress to decide.

The poll suggests possible trouble for legislators who supported the increase for themselves. Fully 26 percent of those questioned said they would be less likely to vote to re-elect a member of Congress who had voted for the pay raise. About 58 percent said it didn’t make any difference.

On the other hand, the general proposition that people’s pay should go up to keep pace with the cost of living was approved by better than 80 percent.

But better than 63 percent said a cost-of-living increase for lawmakers is unnecessary because members of Congress get generous pay, pensions and other benefits.

And when the question concerned congressional raises, without tying the increase to the cost of living, disapproval was even higher - 69 percent. Approval came from under 21 percent while the rest offered no opinion.

The poll was conducted among a random sample of 1,003 adults between last Wednesday and Sunday by ICR of Media, Pa. Results have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Less than a third of those polled agreed with a common argument in favor of raising congressional pay to keep up with the cost of living - that unless the rewards are kept up, only rich people will run for election.

The replies also show that large portions of the public still hold Congress in low regard. While only 1 percent said Congress could almost always be trusted to do the right thing, 19 percent said the opposite, that Congress could almost never be trusted to do the right thing.

© Copyright 1997 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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