Congressional Job Approval Gets Boost After Democratic Takeover

by Jeffrey M. Jones

Now 35% of Americans approve of Congress

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- Americans' evaluation of Congress has grown more favorable following the Democratic Party's assumption of power earlier this month. With a 35% approval rating, Americans still view the institution quite negatively, but its ratings have improved among all party groups, particularly Democrats. The public expresses much more confidence in the Democrats in Congress than in the Republicans to lead the country in the right direction, and prefer that the Democrats in Congress, rather than President George W. Bush, have more influence over the direction the country will take in the next year. 

Gallup's monthly update on congressional job approval, from a mid-January poll, finds 35% of Americans approving of the job Congress is doing, an increase of 14 percentage points from last month's 21% rating. Even though Congress' approval rating is still low on a relative basis, it is the highest in more than a year, matching a 35% rating from September 2005. 

Fifty-six percent of Americans currently disapprove of Congress, down from 74% last month. 

Congress averaged a 25% approval rating last year, and approval was not above 30% in any month. That public frustration with the legislative branch of government helped sweep Republicans out of control of both houses of Congress for the first time since 1995. The last time Congress had approval ratings in the 20s was in 1994, when Republicans pushed the Democrats out of power. 

Generally speaking, Americans have never had very positive impressions of Congress. Only twice since 1974 has Congress averaged above 50% approval during a calendar year, in 2001 and 2002 when the 9/11 terror attacks promoted a surge in support for all governmental institutions. On the other hand, Congress has had yearly average approval ratings of 25% or below in 1976, 1979-1980, 1990, 1992-1994, and 2006.

According to the Jan. 15-18, 2007, poll, the recent spike in congressional approval ratings is most pronounced among Democrats, although ratings among all three party groups have become more positive in the last month. Democrats' approval of Congress jumped from 16% to 39%.   

Congressional Approval Ratings, by Party Affiliation

All Americans

Democrats

Independents

Republicans

 

 

 

 

Jan 2007

35%

39

28

37

Dec 2006

21%

16

18

32

 

 

 

 

Change

+14 pts

+23 pts

+10 pts

+5 pts

Public More Confident in Democrats

The public clearly is putting its faith in the congressional Democrats at this point. Fifty-nine percent say the policies of the Democratic leaders in the House and Senate will move the country in the right direction, while only 35% say this about the Republican congressional leadership. 

That net 24-point advantage for the Democrats is a major change from this time last year. In early 2006, the parties were about even on this measure, with 44% saying Democrats would lead the country in the right direction and 40% saying the same about the Republicans in Congress. 

Additionally, by a nearly 2-to-1 margin (63% to 32%), Americans say they want the Democrats in Congress, rather than Bush, to have more influence over the direction the nation takes in the next year. [NOTE: The poll was conducted prior to Bush's State of the Union speech earlier this week.]

Pelosi's Stock Up

Favorable ratings of new House Speaker Nancy Pelosi continue to climb. A Jan. 5-7 USA Today/Gallup poll found 44% of Americans holding a favorable view of her, with just 22% having an unfavorable view. She remains an unfamiliar figure to about one in three Americans. 

In November, just after the midterm elections, 38% had a favorable view of her. Prior to the election, Pelosi's favorable ratings were never higher than 31%, and usually about the same as her unfavorable ratings. 

By comparison, Pelosi's 44% favorable rating nearly matches Bush's 45% and exceeds Vice President Dick Cheney's 38%. Both Bush (53%) and Cheney (52%) have unfavorable ratings above 50%. 

Survey Methods

These results are based on telephone interviews with randomly selected national samples of 1,004 adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Jan. 5-7, 2007, and 1,018 adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Jan. 15-18, 2007. For results based on these samples, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum error attributable to sampling and other random effects is ±3 percentage points. 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.

3. Next, we'd like to get your overall opinion of some people in the news.  As I read each name, please say if you have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of these people -- or if you have never heard of them.  How about -- [ITEM A READ FIRST, ITEMS B-E READ IN RANDOM ORDER, ITEM F-H READ IN RANDOM ORDER]?

C. Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi

Favorable

Unfavorable

Never heard of

No opinion

%

%

%

%

2007 Jan 5-7

44

22

13

21

 

 

 

 

2006 Nov 9-12 ^

38

24

18

20

2006 Oct 6-8 ^

26

28

29

17

2006 Jun 23-25 ^

31

29

27

13

2003 Jul 25-27 ^

23

19

42

16

2003 Jan 3-5 ^

23

18

39

20

 

 

 

 

^WORDING: House Democratic Leader, Nancy Pelosi

Thinking again about politics,

Q.4-5 SPLIT SAMPLED

4. Do you think the policies being proposed by -- [ROTATED: the Republican leaders in the U.S. House and Senate/the Democratic leaders in the U.S. House and Senate] -- would move the country in the right direction or in the wrong direction?

BASED ON 506 NATIONAL ADULTS IN FORM A

A. The Republican leaders in the U.S. House and Senate

 

Right direction

Wrong direction

No opinion

 

%

%

%

2007 Jan 5-7 ^

35

54

11

 

 

 

2006 Jan 6-8

40

50

10

2005 Feb 4-6

50

36

14

2001 Aug 24-26

49

38

13

1999 Oct 8-10

54

35

11

1998 Nov 13-15

43

40

17

1998 Oct 23-25

47

33

20

1998 Jul 7-8

43

28

29

1997 Dec 18-21 

44

36

20

1997 Apr 18-20

46

39

15

1996 Apr 9-10

45

41

14

1995 Dec 15-18

44

44

12

1995 Nov 6-8

44

41

15

1995 Sep 22-24

41

44

15

1995 Mar 27-29

53

37

10

1995 Feb 24-26

52

33

15

1994 Nov 28-29

55

27

18

 

 

 

^Asked of a half sample
1994-1999: Asked as a stand-alone question

B. The Democratic leaders in the U.S. House and Senate

 

Right direction

Wrong direction

No opinion

 

%

%

%

2007 Jan 5-7 ^

59

27

14

 

 

 

2006 Jan 6-8

44

43

14

2005 Feb 4-6

41

43

16

2002 Nov 8-10

47

36

17

2001 Aug 24-26

51

36

13

 

 

 

^Asked of a half sample

5. Who do you want to have more influence over the direction the nation takes in the next year – [ROTATED: George W. Bush (or) The Democrats in Congress]?

BASED ON 498 NATIONAL ADULTS IN FORM B


Bush

Democrats
in Congress

BOTH/
NEITHER (vol.)

No
opinion

%

%

%

%

2007 Jan 5-7 ^

32

63

4

2

 

 

 

 

2006 Nov 9-12

31

61

6

2

2002 Jan 11-14 ^

59

36

2

3

2001 Jul 10-11

50

38

9

3

2001 Jun 8-10

48

41

6

5

2001 Feb 9-11

48

41

8

3

 

 

 

 

^Asked of a half sample

(vol.) = Volunteered response

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