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In recent years there has been a push for term limits as a means of getting new blood into Congress However at the same time that a number of states have seen referendums pass demanding term limits on local and state public officials and members of Congress incumbent members of Congress from those same states have easily won reelection And while the public has been pushing to limit members of the House of Representatives to no more than six terms or twelve years in office and members of the US Senate to no more than two terms or twelve years in office the average length of tenure for members of Congress has been about twelve years without term limits Still it is important to understand why it is that incumbents win and why the public seems to think that their own member in Congress is doing a good job and should be reelected again and again in spite of the low approval ratings for Congress as an institution that have persisted for several decades We often see Democrats voting for Republican members of the House and Republicans voting for Democratic members of the House if the candidate they are voting for is the incumbent Incumbency seems to be more of a factor in influencing voter choice than is party identification The question becomes why is there this party defection That is why do loyal party supporters vote for the incumbent of the opposite party when faced with such a choice in the voting booth At the most basic level the public hesitates to vote for a candidate they know nothing about One of the most consistent findings over the years in looking at voting in congressional elections is that simply knowing who the candidate is has a striking impact in voting for that candidate When presented with the names of two candidates on the ballot the fact that the voter recognizes one
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