Politics

Approval of Congress Remains Steady at 37%

by Frank Newport

Last three months mark a substantial uptick compared to 2008

PRINCETON, NJ -- Americans give Congress a job approval rating of 37% in Gallup's latest update, conducted May 7-10 -- not statistically different from the previous two readings in March and April. However, all three of these ratings are significantly higher than the average job approval rating of 19% recorded for all of 2008.

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Congressional job approval reached an all-time low of 14% last July (with 75% disapproval). Approval moved up slightly through the fall of 2008 and into January of this year, and then jumped by 12 points in February, after both President Obama and the new House and Senate had begun work. Approval edged up slightly more in March, and -- as noted -- has remained fairly constant since.

From a long-term perspective, it is interesting to note that job approval of Congress has averaged 35% since 1974, when Gallup began measuring it in the current format (this overall average is based on the average of yearly averages since that time; Gallup did not ask about congressional job approval in 1984, 1985, and 1989). Thus, the current 37% job approval rating is fairly typical of what has been measured over the last 35 years.

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The lowest yearly congressional job approval in Gallup's history was 18% in 1992. Last year, 2008, was one of two years (along with 1979) in which congressional job approval was almost as low, at 19%.

The highest years for congressional job approval in Gallup's history were 2001 (56%) and 2002 (54%), reflecting the classic "rally effect" that resulted in Americans' evincing high ratings for their government in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. After 2002, congressional job approval fell each year through 2006, with a slight increase in 2007, and then the fall to 19% last year.

In terms of partisan differences, the current May reading reflects the same pattern as evidenced in March and April -- with Democrats' approval of Congress well above the 50% level, while independents and Republicans remain much less positive.

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Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,015 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted May 7-10, 2009. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points.

Interviews are conducted with respondents on land-line telephones (for respondents with a land-line telephone) and cellular phones (for respondents who are cell-phone only).

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.

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