Congress' Job Approval Retreats to 17%

by Jeffrey M. Jones

Down seven points from May

PRINCETON, NJ -- Seventeen percent of Americans approve of the job Congress is doing, down seven percentage points from May's 24% approval rating, but similar to where it was in March and April. Congress' approval rating has been below 25% since January 2010.

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

The June 9-12 update on Congress was conducted in the midst of the scandal involving U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner. However, the drop since May more likely reflects the end of the rally in support for the government after the death of Osama bin Laden rather than a reaction to the Weiner scandal. The bin Laden news preceded increases in approval ratings for President Obama and Congress as well as an uptick in Americans' satisfaction with the way things are going in the United States, but all three measures are back down in June.

The 17% now approving of Congress is just four points higher than the all-time low of 13% Gallup measured in December. Since Gallup began assessing congressional job approval in 1974, there have been only three ratings lower than 17%. All of these -- plus two other 17% ratings -- have been recorded in the past three years, underscoring the recent negative turn in Americans' views of Congress.

Lowest Congressional Approval Ratings, Gallup Polls

Further back in Gallup trends, Congress had an 18% approval rating in March 1992 and a 19% rating in June 1979. All of the historical low ratings have come during sluggish economic times in the United States.

Though all party groups currently give Congress poor ratings, Democrats' ratings (25%) are more positive than independents' (13%) or Republicans' (14%). Republicans' current approval rating is the lowest, by a point, since the GOP took control of the House of Representatives in January.

Republicans and Democrats rated Congress similarly during the early part of 2011, but in recent months Democrats have been more positive.

2011 Trend: Approval Ratings of Congress, by Political Party


Congress' approval ratings remain historically low, and in recent years, Americans' dim view of Congress has contributed to the significant turnover in its membership after the 2006, 2008, and 2010 elections. Unless conditions in the United States improve and Americans become more charitable in their ratings of Congress, the 2012 elections may result in another shake-up in Congress' membership, although with divided control of the legislative branch, it is not clear which party would be hurt more. The irony is that even as Congress' membership has turned over a lot in recent years, its standing as an institution in the eyes of the public has not improved.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted June 9-12, 2011, with a random sample of 1,020 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

For results based on the total sample of national 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 and cellular phones, with interviews conducted in Spanish for respondents who are primarily Spanish-speaking. Each sample includes a minimum quota of 400 cell phone respondents and 600 landline respondents per 1,000 national adults, with additional minimum quotas among landline respondents for gender within region. Landline telephone numbers are chosen at random among listed telephone numbers. Cell phone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods. 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, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, adults in the household, and phone status (cell phone only/landline only/both, cell phone mostly, and having an unlisted landline number). Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2010 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older non-institutionalized population living in 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 www.gallup.com.

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