Congress' Approval Entrenched at 18% as Debt Talks Continue

by Frank Newport

Democrats remain slightly more positive than Republicans or independents

PRINCETON, NJ -- A low and seemingly entrenched congressional job approval rating of 18% provides the backdrop for negotiations as congressional leaders work to reach a compromise on the federal budget and the U.S. debt ceiling. This is essentially unchanged from last month's 17% and reflective of the 20% average for the first seven months of 2011.

2010-2011 Trend: Do you approve or disapprove of the way Congress is handling its job?

The latest findings are from a Gallup poll conducted July 7-10, as President Obama and House and Senate leaders worked through the weekend, attempting to reach an agreement on the federal budget ahead of the looming Aug. 2 deadline for raising the nation's debt ceiling. No agreement had been reached by Sunday night, when interviewing concluded.

Congress' 20% average job approval rating so far this year is essentially the same as that for all of 2010 (19%) and 2008 (19%). The exception to the recent low ratings was 2009, the first year of Obama's presidency, when Congress' approval rose to 30%.

This year's trend has shown some fluctuations on a monthly basis, notably a one-month increase to 24% in May, after U.S. forces killed Osama bin Laden.

The all-time high for congressional approval since 1974 was 84% in October 2001, reflecting the rally effect that followed the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The all-time low was 13%, measured last December. Congressional job approval was also very low in 1979 and in 1992, years marked by economic problems, as is the case this year.

Democrats continue to give Congress modestly higher ratings than do independents or Republicans, but at 24%, Democrats' approval rating for Congress is hardly robust. Republicans' approval is up slightly, from 14% in June to 18% this month.

2011 Trend: Approval Ratings of Congress, by Political Party


The ultimate impact of the current budget and debt ceiling negotiations on Americans' views of Congress will not be known until the matter is resolved.

Americans have been none too happy with their elected representatives in Washington for the past year and a half, and the current 18% job approval rating for Congress appears to reflect a continuation of this solidly negative view. These low ratings tie in with the recent finding that the significant majority of Americans feel most members of Congress do not deserve re-election, something that has no doubt entered elected representatives' thinking as budget negotiations continue.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted July 7-10, 2011, with a random sample of 1,016 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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