Politics

Congress’ Approval Rating Drops to 33%

by Frank Newport

Lowest since February, but still up from last year


PRINCETON, NJ -- Americans' approval of the job Congress is doing has slipped to 33% this month, down from the recent high of 39% in March, but still significantly higher than job approval ratings of Congress over the last several years.

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Although there was no change in the control of either the House of Representatives or the Senate as a result of the 2008 elections, Americans' approval of Congress shot up concurrently with the inauguration of the new president in January -- going from 19% in early January to 31% in February to 39% in March. Congress' approval rating then dropped slightly in April and May, and this month is down further, as noted.

Job approval of Congress reached its all-time high of 84% in October 2001, part of the general "rally effect" that followed the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 of that year. From that time until January of this year, congressional approval has generally been on a downward slope, dropping below 30% in October 2005, surfacing above 30% three times in the early months of 2007, and then deteriorating to an all-time low of 14% last July.

The slip in job approval to 33% this month appears to have been caused in part by a significant drop in approval among Democrats, whose 50% rating this month is the lowest since February. Republicans' rating is at 17% while independents' rating is at 31%, neither of which is sharply different from where each has been in the previous four months.

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It is interesting to note, more broadly, that Republicans' approval of Congress did not change much as a result of the change of presidents. Republicans' ratings were low before Obama took office and are low now. On the other hand, there has been a significant shift in approval of Congress among Democrats. The current 50% approval rating of Congress among Democrats, although down from previous months this year, is still higher than it was last year or in early January of this year, when George W. Bush was in the White House. Although party control of Congress did not change with the 2008 elections, it is apparent that the election of a Democratic president shifted Democrats' overall view of the job the legislative branch is doing -- perhaps because hopes have been increased that the Congress would be more effective with the new administration.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,011 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted June 14-17, 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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