Order Code: IIC134DV   
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Most members of Congress today are professional politicians who hope to keep their seats for years. Congress is also more diverse than in previous decades. In the past couple decades, incumbents in both the House and the Senate have won reelection over 90 percent of the time (not counting those who voluntarily retired). Incumbents usually win reelection because they can use their office to respond to their constituents in several ways, including "pork barrel projects," practicing the service strategy, and raising campaign funds. Despite the advantages of incumbency, several potential problems—including troublesome issues, personal misconduct, midterm elections, strong challengers, and redistricting—can harm their reelection prospects.

Learning objectives:

  • Explain why incumbents in Congress have such a high reelection rate.
  • Describe the possible electoral problems faced by incumbents.
  • Discuss the typical background of people who run for Congress, and explain how the composition of Congress has changed.
  • Understand reapportionment, redistricting, and gerrymandering.
  • Describe the leadership system in Congress.
  • Explain how the lawmaking role of Congress conflicts with its members’ reelection needs.
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This title is part of the series: FRAMEWORK FOR DEMOCRACY




10 and up


Color and black-and-white

Run Time

26 minutes