Congress' Job Approval Entrenched at Record Low of 13%

by Frank Newport

Congressional rating similar among Republicans, independents, and Democrats

PRINCETON, NJ -- Congressional job approval remains at 13% in November, identical to October and tying the all-time Gallup low on this measure. The 2011 average is on track to be the lowest annual rating of Congress in Gallup's history.

Congressional Job Approval -- 2011 Trend

The trend on this measure has been at or near record lows for the last four months, with ratings of 13% in August, 15% in September, and 13% in each of the last two months.

At this point, approval of the way Congress is handling its job remains low among all Americans, regardless of their political party identification: Republicans, independents, and Democrats are all in a range of 11% to 15% approval.

Congressional Job Approval by Party ID -- 2011 Trend

The current rough parity in approval across party groups reflects both the divided nature of government and the broad levels of dissatisfaction with Congress that are affecting all political and ideological groups. Democrats became significantly more positive than Republicans about Congress in early 2009, as Democrat Barack Obama entered the White House and with both houses of Congress controlled by Democrats. Democrats' relatively high approval of Congress shifted downward near the end of 2010, when Republicans took control of the House with a gain of more than 60 seats in the November midterm elections. Democrats' and Republicans' approval of Congress has fluctuated since then, but with much smaller differences between those identifying with the two major parties.

Congressional approval has averaged 17% so far this year. If that holds, it will be the lowest annual congressional job approval rating in Gallup records dating to 1974 -- slightly below the recent annual lows of 19% recorded in 2010 and 2008, and below two years in which Gallup recorded only one measure of congressional approval: 19% in 1979, and 18% in 1992.

Bottom Line

The current low congressional job approval rating is one of a number of measures that attest to the low esteem in which Americans hold their federal government. These include low confidence ratings in the institution of Congress, low honesty and ethics ratings for members of Congress, low trust and confidence in the legislative branch of government, low satisfaction with the way the nation is being governed, and a very low image rating of the federal government in general.

If the congressional supercommittee charged with cutting more than a trillion dollars in spending from the federal budget is unable to do so by the end of this month, these measures of the public's faith in Congress are likely to drop even lower.

The implications of these attitudes for next year's House and Senate elections are still not totally clear. It is possible that voters will turn their disdain for Congress onto the Republicans, the party that controls the House, and flip control of the lower body back to the Democrats, or more generally reward challengers and oust incumbents. With only a third of the Senate up for election -- and two-thirds of those seats Democratic -- it is less clear what impact the public's negative mood will have on the Democrats' current control of that body.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Nov. 3-6, 2011, with a random sample of 1,012 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 by 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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