Low Approval of Congress Not Budging, Now 19%

by Lydia Saad

Democrats' approval is up slightly to 38%; Republicans' hits record-low 5%

PRINCETON, NJ -- Congress' job rating from the American people in August remains near the historical lows seen in recent months. Nineteen percent of Americans now approve of the overall job Congress is doing, while 75% disapprove.

Congressional Job Approval, January 2009-August 2010

Congress' average approval rating thus far in 2010 is 20% -- down from 30% in 2009, the first year of the 111th Congress. This year's average easily trails the 36% average approval Gallup has recorded for Congress since the measure was established in 1974, and is the lowest seen in any midterm congressional election year since then. The record-low single rating for the measure is 14% in July 2008.

Congressional Job Approval -- Annual Averages, 1974-2010

With just three months remaining before the congressional midterm elections, public opinion of Congress may be growing slightly more polarized. Democrats' approval of Congress now stands at 38%, a bit higher than its June and July levels. In contrast, approval among Republicans, as well as independents, is down from where it has been since June.

The 5% of Republicans who currently approve of Congress is also the absolute lowest approval rating from members of either party that Gallup has found since at least 1993.

Congressional Job Approval by Party, January 2009-August 2010

Bottom Line

The persistently low approval of Congress this year is a strong signal of public discontent with the legislative branch. While it is understandable that Republicans would be unhappy with a Congress that has passed some major legislation initiated by the Democratic Obama administration, it is noteworthy that approval is also low among Democrats. A year ago at this time, 55% of Democrats approved of the job Congress was doing.

Low congressional job approval is generally associated with large seat losses by the majority party in midterm elections, a sign of potential trouble for the Democrats in 2010.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Aug. 5-8, 2010, with a random sample of 1,013 adults, aged 18 and older, living in the continental U.S., selected using random-digit-dial sampling.

For results based on the total sample of adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points.

Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones (for respondents with a landline telephone) and cellular phones (for respondents who are cell phone-only). Each sample includes a minimum quota of 150 cell phone-only respondents and 850 landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas among landline respondents for gender within region. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.

Samples are weighted by gender, age, race, education, region, and phone lines. Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2009 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older non-institutionalized population living in continental U.S. telephone households. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting and sample design.

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.

View methodology, full question results, and trend data.

For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit http://www.gallup.com/.

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