U.S. Congress Approval Remains Dismal

Americans remain down on Congress, with 15% approving and 78% disapproving of the job it is doing. This approval rating is similar to the low levels seen this year, and is five percentage points above the all-time low of 10%, last recorded in August 2012.

 

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Trend: Do you approve or disapprove of the way Congress is handling its job?

Congress' approval rating remains stagnant at the low end of Gallup's historical trend. Approval has averaged 15% so far this year, far below the overall 33% average rating for the entire trend since 1974. The average for 2013 to date ties with 2012 for the lowest annual average on record. More generally, Americans' views of Congress have been depressed for the past few years, averaging 17% in 2011 and 19% in 2010. The highest yearly average was 56% in 2001, due to a spike in congressional approval after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Democrats Give Congress a Slightly Higher Rating Than Republicans

Democrats are still slightly more likely than Republicans and independents to approve of Congress. Twenty-one percent of Democrats approve, compared with 12% of Republicans and 14% of independents.

More broadly, Americans in all three groups have been displeased with Congress since it came under divided control after the 2010 midterm elections, with the exception of a temporary spike in Democrats' ratings prior to the 2012 elections.

Trend: Congress Approval, by Party ID

Implications

Congress' approval rating is at a dismal 15%, just five points above the all-time low. Some members of Congress are aware of the institution's poor standing with the American public and say they are trying to address it. For instance, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in a speech earlier this week mentioned that partisan gridlock and not getting things done are driving Congress' low approval -- factors consistent with Gallup's recent findings on the top reasons Americans disapprove of Congress. Reid cited these factors to bolster his argument for a "nuclear option," which would have significantly reformed the ways in which Senate filibusters have delayed confirmation of President Barack Obama's executive-branch nominees.

While the Senate reached a bipartisan agreement to avoid the nuclear option, Congress likely will need to reach many more bipartisan agreements in the months ahead to improve its approval rating. Congress' approval rating could benefit if it passes immigration reform, which the public broadly supports. Additionally, Congress could boost its standing with the public by avoiding partisan acrimony this fall during the debate to raise the debt limit.

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