Politics

Americans Widely Disappointed With Democrats in Congress

by Lydia Saad

Majority more displeased than content with handling of seven issues

PRINCETON, NJ -- Amidst a swirl of public dissatisfaction about the Iraq war, the economy, government corruption, and with President Bush more generally, Americans went to the polls in November 2006 and voted enough Republicans out of office to give the Democrats majority control of Congress. A year later, Americans are as negative about the job Congress is doing as they were leading up to the 2006 midterm elections. And according to recent Gallup polling, Americans are distinctly negative about the Democrats’ handling of several front-burner policy issues.

The latest Gallup Panel survey, conducted Oct. 25-28, 2007, asked Americans to say whether they are “pleased,” “neutral,” “disappointed,” or “angry” about the way the Democrats in Congress have been dealing with seven major issues confronting the nation.

Overall, relatively few Americans are pleased with the Democrats’ performance on any of them. This ranges from 7% for the federal budget deficit to 17% for terrorism. Between 12% and 26% say they are angry about the issues. However, most Americans fall in between, with the plurality generally saying they are disappointed with congressional Democrats’ performance on each.

As you may know, the Democratic Party gained majority control of Congress in January. How do you feel about the job the Democrats in Congress are doing on each of the following issues -- pleased, neutral, disappointed, or angry?
Oct. 25-28, 2007


 

Pleased

Neutral

Disappointed

Angry

 

%

%

%

%

Terrorism

17

35

31

16

The economy

12

35

41

12

Government reform

12

33

41

14

Healthcare

12

28

43

17

Iraq

11

20

43

25

Immigration

8

27

39

26

The federal budget deficit

7

32

44

16

Another way to consider the findings is to combine the percentages saying they are pleased or neutral (two categories that essentially validate the Democrats’ performance) and contrast these with the percentages saying they are disappointed or angry (two clearly negative categories). According to this summary, Democrats receive their best ratings on terrorism and their worst on Iraq and immigration.

More specifically, a majority of Americans are pleased or neutral about the way the Democratic Congress has handled terrorism, and close to half are pleased or neutral about Congress on the economy and government reform. These relatively positive ratings could reflect some of the Democrats’ early successes in passing anti-terrorism recommendations of the Sept. 11 commission, raising the minimum wage, and reforming a variety of ethics and lobbying laws. They may also reflect the absence of major terrorist acts or highly publicized terrorist threats this year.

But on four other issues, the public offers more clearly negative assessments. Six in 10 Americans are disappointed or angry with the Democrats’ performance on healthcare and the federal budget deficit. About two-thirds have a negative reaction to their handling of immigration and Iraq.

Iraq is the most negatively evaluated of all -- perhaps reflecting not only the degree to which Iraq is seen as the nation’s top problem today, but also the thinking that a new Democratic-controlled Congress would have been more effective in changing course in Iraq.

Summary of Public Reaction to Handling of Issues
by Democrats in Congress
Based on national adults
Oct. 25-28, 2007

 

Pleased/
Neutral

Disappointed/
Angry

Net Pleased/
Neutral

 

%

%

pct. pts.

Terrorism

52

47

5

The economy

47

53

-6

Government reform

45

55

-10

Healthcare

40

60

-20

The federal budget deficit

39

60

-21

Immigration

35

65

-30

Iraq

31

68

-37

If this lackluster evaluation of the Democratic Congress were highly partisan -- with Republicans mostly negative and Democrats mostly positive -- the House and Senate leadership could at least be satisfied that it is meeting the expectations of its base supporters. However, that is not the case. Democrats are less negative than Republicans, but they are still somewhat negative about the performance of their own party’s leadership in Congress.

A majority of Democrats are positive or neutral about the Democratic Congress on three issues (terrorism, government reform, and the economy) but a majority are negative on another three (the federal budget deficit, immigration, and Iraq). Democrats are about equally divided (at 50% vs. 49%) in their reactions to congressional Democrats on healthcare.

Summary of Public Reaction to Handling of Issues
by Democrats in Congress
Based on Democrats
Oct. 25-28, 2007

 

Pleased/
Neutral

Disappointed/
Angry

Net Pleased/
Neutral

 

%

%

pct. pts.

Terrorism

68

32

36

Government reform

55

42

13

The economy

54

45

9

Healthcare

49

50

-1

The federal budget deficit

48

51

-3

Immigration

45

52

-7

Iraq

41

57

-16

The two issues at the bottom of Democrats’ rankings of Congress -- immigration and Iraq -- both apparently tap Democratic frustration with congressional inaction or failure to prevail over the Republicans.

With a comprehensive immigration reform bill dying in late June, it is perhaps not surprising that 16% of Democrats say they are “angry” about congressional Democrats’ handling of immigration.

Similarly, the Democrats’ failure to force President Bush to pull out of Iraq, or at least to support a timetable for withdrawing troops, perhaps explains why 17% of Democrats are angry with congressional Democrats on the Iraq issue.

Tables detailing the Democrats’ full reaction to all seven issues are shown at the end of this report.

As would be expected, Republicans are even more critical of the Democratic-controlled Congress than are Democrats, with a majority of Republicans saying they are disappointed or angry with the congressional Democrats on all seven issues.

Summary of Public Reaction to Handling of Issues
by Democrats in Congress
Based on Republicans
Oct. 25-28, 2007

 

Pleased/
Neutral

Disappointed/
Angry

Net Pleased/
Neutral

 

%

%

pct. pts.

The economy

42

58

-16

The federal budget deficit

36

65

-29

Terrorism

35

64

-29

Government reform

30

68

-38

Healthcare

29

71

-42

Immigration

25

75

-50

Iraq

24

75

-51

On most issues, the views of independents fall somewhere between those of the two party groups.

Net Pleased/Neutral About Handling of Issues
by Democrats in Congress
% Pleased/Neutral Minus % Disappointed/Angry
Based on national adults
Oct. 25-28, 2007

 

Democrats

Republicans

Independents

National adults

Terrorism

36

-29

-6

5

The economy

9

-16

-11

-6

Government reform

13

-38

-7

-10

Healthcare

-1

-42

-20

-20

The federal budget deficit

-3

-29

-30

-21

Immigration

-7

-50

-32

-30

Iraq

-16

-51

-44

-37

Bottom Line

Democrats took power in January 2007 with a pre-scripted agenda for what they would accomplish in the first 100 legislative hours, but also offering the customary promises about working in a bipartisan fashion to do the nation’s business. At the time, 37% of Republicans and 39% of Democrats approved of the job Congress as a whole was doing. As of October, only 25% of Republicans and 26% of Democrats approve.

The data reviewed above indicate some of the causes for today’s depressed ratings. Of the major issues Congress has wrestled with this session, Iraq and immigration appear to be producing the most flak for congressional Democrats, with a majority of rank-and-file Democrats as well as Republicans generally critical of their job performance. The Democrats’ taking a stand on these issues, and then failing to deliver, has produced substantial bipartisan irritation with Congress.

Survey Methods

Results for this panel study are based on telephone interviews with 1,000 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Oct. 25-28, 2007. Respondents were randomly drawn from Gallup’s nationally representative household panel, which was originally recruited through random selection methods. The final sample is weighted so it is representative of U.S. adults nationwide. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points.

For results based on the sample of 310 Republicans, the maximum margin of sampling error is ±7 percentage points.

For results based on the sample of 348 independents, the maximum margin of sampling error is ±6 percentage points.

For results based on the sample of 342 Democrats, the maximum margin of sampling error is ±6 percentage points.

In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

18. As you may know, the Democratic Party gained majority control of Congress in January. How do you feel about the job the Democrats in Congress are doing on each of the following issues -- pleased, neutral, disappointed, or angry? How about -- [RANDOM ORDER]?

2007 Oct 25-28
(based on percent “pleased”)


All adults


Republicans


Independents


Democrats

 

%

%

%

%

Terrorism

17

11

17

23

Healthcare

12

5

10

20

Government reform

12

3

12

19

The economy

12

9

8

17

Iraq

11

6

8

20

Immigration

8

4

6

14

The federal budget deficit

7

4

5

13

Full Results:

A. Immigration

 

Pleased

Neutral

Disappointed

Angry

No
opinion

National adults

%

%

%

%

%

2007 Oct 25-28

8

27

39

26

1

 

 

 

 

 

 

Republicans

 

 

 

 

 

2007 Oct 25-28

4

21

41

34

*

 

 

 

 

 

 

Independents

 

 

 

 

 

2007 Oct 25-28

6

28

38

28

*

 

 

 

 

 

 

Democrats

 

 

 

 

 

2007 Oct 25-28

14

31

36

16

2

* Less than 0.5%

B. Iraq

 

Pleased

Neutral

Disappointed

Angry

No
opinion

National adults

%

%

%

%

%

2007 Oct 25-28

11

20

43

25

1

 

 

 

 

 

 

Republicans

 

 

 

 

 

2007 Oct 25-28

6

18

42

33

1

 

 

 

 

 

 

Independents

 

 

 

 

 

2007 Oct 25-28

8

20

47

25

--

 

 

 

 

 

 

Democrats

 

 

 

 

 

2007 Oct 25-28

20

21

40

17

2

C. Terrorism

 

Pleased

Neutral

Disappointed

Angry

No
opinion

National adults

%

%

%

%

%

2007 Oct 25-28

17

35

31

16

1

 

 

 

 

 

 

Republicans

 

 

 

 

 

2007 Oct 25-28

11

24

40

24

1

 

 

 

 

 

 

Independents

 

 

 

 

 

2007 Oct 25-28

17

36

32

15

--

 

 

 

 

 

 

Democrats

 

 

 

 

 

2007 Oct 25-28

23

45

23

9

1

D. The economy

 

Pleased

Neutral

Disappointed

Angry

No
opinion

National adults

%

%

%

%

%

2007 Oct 25-28

12

35

41

12

*

 

 

 

 

 

 

Republicans

 

 

 

 

 

2007 Oct 25-28

9

33

47

11

--

 

 

 

 

 

 

Independents

 

 

 

 

 

2007 Oct 25-28

8

36

37

18

*

 

 

 

 

 

 

Democrats

 

 

 

 

 

2007 Oct 25-28

17

37

38

7

*

* Less than 0.5%

E. The federal budget deficit

 

Pleased

Neutral

Disappointed

Angry

No
opinion

National adults

%

%

%

%

%

2007 Oct 25-28

7

32

44

16

*

 

 

 

 

 

 

Republicans

 

 

 

 

 

2007 Oct 25-28

4

32

48

17

*

 

 

 

 

 

 

Independents

 

 

 

 

 

2007 Oct 25-28

5

30

42

23

*

 

 

 

 

 

 

Democrats

 

 

 

 

 

2007 Oct 25-28

13

35

43

8

1

* Less than 0.5%

F. Government reform

 

Pleased

Neutral

Disappointed

Angry

No
opinion

National adults

%

%

%

%

%

2007 Oct 25-28

12

33

41

14

1

 

 

 

 

 

 

Republicans

 

 

 

 

 

2007 Oct 25-28

3

27

49

19

1

 

 

 

 

 

 

Independents

 

 

 

 

 

2007 Oct 25-28

12

34

39

14

1

 

 

 

 

 

 

Democrats

 

 

 

 

 

2007 Oct 25-28

19

36

34

8

2

G. Healthcare

 

Pleased

Neutral

Disappointed

Angry

No
opinion

National adults

%

%

%

%

%

2007 Oct 25-28

12

28

43

17

*

 

 

 

 

 

 

Republicans

 

 

 

 

 

2007 Oct 25-28

5

24

51

20

--

 

 

 

 

 

 

Independents

 

 

 

 

 

2007 Oct 25-28

10

30

39

21

*

 

 

 

 

 

 

Democrats

 

 

 

 

 

2007 Oct 25-28

20

29

40

10

*

* Less than 0.5%

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