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Majority in U.S. Say Congress Doing a "Poor" or "Bad" Job

Majority in U.S. Say Congress Doing a 'Poor' or 'Bad' Job

Story Highlights

  • Republicans offer no better review of Congress than do Democrats
  • Democrats give net positive review of Democrats in Congress
  • Republicans are more negative than positive toward GOP caucus

PRINCETON, N.J. -- Americans' assessments of whether Congress is doing an excellent, good, fair, poor or bad job are decidedly negative, similar to a year ago. The majority of U.S. adults (53%) say Congress is doing a poor or bad job, while just 13% call its performance good or excellent. This results in a -40 net positive rating for Congress, similar to the -34 in June 2015.

Americans' Ratings of How the U.S. Congress Is Handling Its Job
Excellent/Good Fair Poor/Bad Net positive
% % % pct. pts.
Jun 1-5, 2016^ 13 32 53 -40
Jun 15-16, 2015 15 34 49 -34
^ Based on combined results from split sample in which half rated "The U.S. Congress in Washington" and half "The U.S. Congress"
Gallup

In contrast to Congress' negative job evaluation, state and local governments earn net positive ratings of +11 and +24, respectively. Americans' ratings of their respective state governments even improved slightly this year, with 37% rating them excellent or good, up from 31% in June 2015, resulting in an increase in the net positive score to +11 from +4.

Americans' Ratings of the Job Their State and Local Governments Are Doing
Excellent/Good Fair Poor/Bad Net positive
% % % pct. pts.
Your state government
Jun 1-5, 2016 37 37 26 +11
Jun 15-16, 2015 31 40 27 +4
Your local government
Jun 1-5, 2016 44 36 20 +24
Jun 15-16, 2015 39 40 19 +20
Gallup

These findings are from a June 1-5 Gallup survey conducted before this week's debate over the role congressional inaction on gun control played in the Orlando terrorist attack. The results are consistent with the broad public disapproval of Congress Gallup has found on a monthly basis for a decade. One reason this negativity has continued is that Americans who identify as Republican have remained persistently critical of Congress even as control of the institution has shifted from Democratic majorities in both chambers to split control, and, more recently, to full Republican control. One would expect Congress' overall approval rating to be lifted because supporters of the majority party typically give it higher ratings, but that has not occurred with Republicans in recent years.

Echoing this pattern, Republicans are no more likely than Democrats to say Congress is doing an excellent or good job, nor are they much less likely to say it is doing a poor or bad job.

Job the U.S. Congress Is Doing -- by Party ID
Excellent/Good Fair Poor/Bad Net positive
% % % pct. pts.
Republicans 12 36 51 -39
Independents 13 30 55 -42
Democrats 13 31 54 -41
Gallup, June 1-5, 2016

In the same June 1-5 poll, Gallup asked Americans for their separate assessments of the Republicans and the Democrats in Congress. Americans' ratings of the Republicans in Congress match those of Congress as a whole, while their ratings of Democrats in Congress are somewhat less negative.

  • Thirteen percent of U.S. adults say the Republicans in Congress are doing an excellent or good job, while 54% call it poor or bad, giving the GOP a -41 net positive score. That is noticeably worse than the -32 Gallup recorded a year ago.
  • The Democrats in Congress -- currently the minority party in both the House and Senate -- aren't rated quite so poorly, with 21% of Americans giving them high marks vs. 40% low, for a net positive rating of -19. This is essentially unchanged from last year.
Job the Republicans and Democrats in Congress Are Doing
Excellent/Good Fair Poor/Bad Net positive
% % % pct. pts.
Republicans in Congress
Jun 1-5, 2016 13 30 54 -41
Jun 15-16, 2015 16 34 48 -32
Democrats in Congress
Jun 1-5, 2016 21 36 40 -19
Jun 15-16, 2015 19 38 41 -22
Net positive = % excellent/good minus % poor/bad
Gallup

More Republicans Negative Than Positive About GOP Caucus

Rank-and-file Republicans are negative about Congress even when rating its GOP members specifically. Slightly more Republicans say the Republicans in Congress are doing a poor or bad job (30%) than say they are doing an excellent or good job (22%). By contrast, rank-and-file Democrats have a relatively positive view of the Democrats in Congress, with 41% rating them excellent or good and only 13% poor or bad. In short, Republicans are much more critical about their representation in Congress than Democrats are about theirs.

Job the Republicans and Democrats in Congress Are Doing -- by Party ID
Excellent/Good Fair Poor/Bad Net positive
% % % pct. pts.
Republicans in Congress
Republicans 22 46 30 -8
Independents 10 31 55 -45
Democrats 10 14 75 -65
Democrats in Congress
Republicans 6 28 64 -58
Independents 15 35 45 -30
Democrats 41 45 13 +28
Gallup, June 1-5, 2016

Bottom Line

Despite solid Republican majorities in Congress, neither rank-and-file Republicans nor Democrats think Congress is performing well. And while the explanation for this theoretically could be that Republicans evaluate Congress more on the basis of how the Democrats in Congress are behaving than on how the Republicans are performing, Republican identifiers are negative toward Congress even when rating the Republican caucus specifically. By contrast, Democrats rate the Democratic caucus more positively than negatively.

Somewhat more positively, fewer Americans say Congress is doing a poor or bad job (53%) than say they disapprove of the job Congress is doing (80%) in Gallup's standard approve/disapprove format. The 80% disapproving of Congress therefore includes some whose disapproval is not extremely negative. In the current survey, of those disapproving of Congress on the approve/disapprove question, just 23% rated the job Congress is doing in the worst possible terms, calling it "bad." Another 41% called it "poor," while 31% described it as "fair." In other words, Americans have a broadly negative view of how Congress is performing, but it could be worse.

This is the first in a series of Gallup reports investigating Congress' negative image. Future articles in this series will review Americans' specific criticisms of Congress as well as the factors that drive Americans' negative views of Congress.

Frank Newport and Mike Traugott contributed to this article.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted June 1-5, 2016, with a random sample of 1,027 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, the margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. For results based on the total sample of 308 Republicans or 313 Democrats, the margin of sampling error is ±7 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. All reported margins of sampling error include computed design effects for weighting.

Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 60% cellphone respondents and 40% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods.

View survey methodology, complete question responses and trends.

Learn more about how the Gallup Poll Social Series works.


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