Near Majority Considers Congress' First Six Months a Success

by Jeffrey M. Jones

Four in 10 think major legislation passed this year will make a major difference to them

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- Congress began its August recess last Friday, and a new CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll shows that -- by a comfortable margin -- more Americans rate the first six months of the 107th Congress positively than negatively. In addition to enacting a large tax cut earlier this summer, one or both houses have passed some form of legislation regarding a patient's bill of rights, energy, and education. About four in 10 Americans think each of these will make a major difference to them and their families. In evaluating Congress, the public gives the Democrats in Congress slightly higher marks than they do the Republicans.

According to the poll conducted August 3-5, 49% of Americans rate Congress' first six months as a success and 33% call it a failure. When asked to rate the Bush administration, 56% say the first six months have been a success and 32% say they have been a failure. Bush's ratings are slightly better than those of Congress, which are strongly related to party affiliation. Sixty-five percent of Republicans say that Congress' first six months have been a success, as do 46% of independents and just 37% of Democrats.

Do you consider the first six months of this year's session of Congress to be a success or a failure?
Aug. 3-5, 2001

Congress' overall approval ratings are very similar to its success or failure numbers. Forty-seven percent of Americans approve of the job Congress is doing, and 42% disapprove. When asked to rate how the two parties in Congress are handling their jobs, 52% approve and 38% disapprove of the Democrats, while 49% approve and 40% disapprove of the Republicans. The Democratic advantage is also reflected in the fact that 43% say the country would be better off if Democrats controlled Congress, compared to 34% who say that about the Republicans.

Many Americans Expect Legislative Initiatives to Make Major Differences in Their Lives

This year Congress has addressed several issues that are high on President Bush's agenda, including a tax cut (signed into law in June), an education bill, a patient's bill of rights, and an energy bill. About four in 10 Americans say these policy initiatives will make a major difference to them and their families. Forty-two percent say that a patient's bill of rights and an education bill will make a major difference, 40% say this about Bush's energy plan, and 36% say this about the tax cut.

Next, thinking about the major pieces of legislation which the House or Senate passed this year, please say how much of a difference each of the following will make to you and your family as a law-- a major difference, a minor difference, or no difference at all. How about -- [RANDOM ORDER]?

2001 Aug 3-5
(sorted by "major difference")


Major Difference


Minor Difference

Total

%

%

%

A patient's bill of rights

42

35

87

An education bill

42

27

69

President Bush's energy plan

40

32

72

Tax cuts passed by Congress

36

39

75

Parents of children under age 18 are only somewhat more likely than the public at large to say the education bill will make a major difference to them and their families --52% of parents compared with 42% of all Americans. An additional 27% of parents think it will make a minor difference.

About half of all women say a patient's bill of rights will make a major difference in their lives, compared with just 33% of men. Women are also more likely than men, by eight percentage points, to believe that the tax cuts and education bill will make a major difference to them, but there is no gender difference in perceptions of the impact of Bush's energy plan.

Effect of legislation on you and your family,
by gender

% Saying "Major Difference"
Aug. 3-5, 2001

Nearly half of younger Americans, those between the ages of 18-29, say that the tax cuts will make a major difference to them, compared to 37% of those 30-49, 34% of those in the 50-64 age bracket, and just 26% of those 65 and older. Perhaps surprisingly, there are no differences on this issue by income.

Effect of tax cut on you and your family,
by age

% Saying "Major Difference"
Aug. 3-5, 2001

Congressional Leaders Still Largely Unknown to Public

The debates on key issues have apparently done little to raise the profile of congressional leaders. A majority of Americans, 56%, have either no opinion or no awareness of Republican Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, although this has improved since last fall, when 63% could not rate him. On balance, though, Hastert's ratings are more positive than negative, with 29% rating him favorably and 15% rating him unfavorably. This represents a slight increase in his negative ratings from last fall, with no change in his positive scores.

House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt is better known by the public, as 63% are able to rate him, 39% positively and 24% negatively. Only 37% are unable to rate Gephardt. Like Hastert, Gephardt's favorable ratings have remained stable since last fall, but his negative ratings have increased by five percentage points.

The most recent ratings on Senate leaders come from a June 8-10 poll this year. Senate Majority Leader, Democrat Tom Daschle, is known to slightly more than half of the public, and is rated positively by 34% of Americans and negatively by 20%. Senate Minority Leader, Republican Trent Lott, is somewhat better known, and is viewed favorably by 34% of Americans but unfavorably by 29%.

Survey Methods

These results are based on telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 1,017 adults, 18 years and older, conducted August 3-5 2001. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95 percent confidence that the maximum error attributable to sampling and other random effects is plus or minus 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.

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

 

 

 


Ap-
prove


Dis-
ap-
prove

No
opin-
ion

   

 

Ap-
prove


Dis-
ap-
prove

No
opin-
ion

 

%

%

%

%

 

%

%

%

2001

       

1996

     

2001 Aug 3-5

47

42

11

 

1996 May 9-12

30

65

5

         

1996 Apr 9-10

35

57

8

2001 Jul 19-22

49

37

14

 

1995

     

2001 Jun 11-17

51

34

15

 

1995 Sep 22-24

30

61

9

2001 May 10-14

49

34

17

 

1995 Aug 28-30

30

60

10

2001 Apr 6-8

55

32

13

 

1995 Jul 7-9

35

55

10

2001 Mar 5-7

55

28

17

 

1995 May 11-14

34

57

9

2001 Feb 1-4

53

32

15

 

1995 Apr 17-19

37

54

9

2001 Jan 10-14

50

40

10

 

1995 Mar 27-29

31

61

8

2000

       

1995 Mar 17-19

32

59

9

2000 Dec 2-4

56

34

10

 

1995 Feb 24-26

35

53

12

2000 Oct 6-9

49

42

9

 

1995 Feb 3-5

38

53

9

2000 Aug 29-Sep 5

48

42

10

 

1995 Jan 16-18

33

52

15

2000 May 18-21

39

52

9

 

1994

     

2000 Jan 7-10

51

42

7

 

1994 Dec 28-30

23

66

11

1999

       

1994 Oct 22-25

23

70

7

1999 Sep 23-26

37

56

7

 

1994 Oct 7-9

21

73

6

1999 Jul 13-14

39

51

10

 

1994 Jul 15-17

27

65

8

1999 Jun 11-13

41

53

6

 

1994 Mar 25-27

29

63

8

1999 Apr 13-14

45

47

8

 

1994 Feb 26-28

28

66

6

1999 Feb 12-13

41

54

5

 

1993

     

1999 Jan 15-17

50

46

4

 

1993 Nov 2-4

24

69

8

1998

       

1993 Aug 8-10

23

69

8

1998 Dec 15-16

42

52

6

 

1993 Jul 19-21

24

65

11

1998 Nov 13-15

41

54

5

 

1993 Feb 26-28

27

54

19

1998 Oct 29-Nov 1

44

47

9

 

1992

     

1998 Oct 9-12

47

46

7

 

1992 Mar 3 ^

18

78

3

1998 Oct 6-7

44

48

8

 

1991

     

1998 Sep 11-12

55

36

9

 

1991 Oct 10-13

40

54

6

1998 May 8-10

44

48

8

 

1991 Jul 25-28

32

53

15

1998 Apr 17-19

49

40

11

 

1990

     

1998 Feb 13-15

57

33

10

 

1990 Nov 2-4

26

63

11

1998 Jan 30-Feb 1

56

35

9

 

1990 Oct 25-28

24

68

8

1998 Jan 16-18

42

47

11

 

1990 Oct 18-21

23

64

13

1997

       

1990 Oct 11-14

28

65

7

1997 Dec 18-21

39

52

9

 

1988

     

1997 Oct 27-29

36

53

11

 

1988 Sep 9-11

42

42

16

1997 Aug 22-25

41

48

11

 

1987

     

1997 Jul 25-27

34

57

9

 

1987 Aug 24-Sep 2

42

49

9

1997 May 6-7

32

58

10

 

1986

     

1997 Apr 18-20

30

59

11

 

1986 Apr 11-14

42

37

21

1997 Feb 24-26

37

48

15

 

1983

     

1997 Jan 31-Feb 2

36

51

13

 

1983 Apr 29-May 2

33

43

24

1997 Jan 10-13

41

49

10

 

1982

     

1996

       

1982 Jun 11-14

29

54

17

1996 Oct 26-29

34

51

15

 

1981

     

1996 Aug 5-7

39

49

12

 

1981 Jun 19-22

38

40

22



 

 

 

Approve


Disapprove

No
opinion

       
 

%

%

%

1980

     

1980 Jun 13-16

25

56

19

1979

     

1979 Jun 1-4

19

61

20

1978

     

1978 Sep 8-11

29

49

22

1977

     

1977 Sep 9-12

35

44

21

1977 Aug 5-8

36

44

20

1977 Jun 3-6

34

42

24

1977 May 20-23

40

40

20

1977 Mar 25-28

36

42

22

1976

     

1976 Jan 23-26

24

58

18

1975

     

1975 Oct 31-Nov 3

28

54

18

1975 Jun 27-30

29

54

17

1975 Apr 18-21

38

48

14

1975 Feb 28-Mar 3

32

50

18

1974

     

1974 Oct 11-14

35

43

22

1974 Aug 16-19

30

47

23

1974 Apr 12-15

30

47

23

 

^ Gallup/Newsweek



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 this person -- or if you have never heard of him or her. How about -- [RANDOM ORDER]?

 

House Democratic Leader, Dick Gephardt

 

 

 


Favorable


Unfavorable

Never
heard of

No
opinion

         
 

%

%

%

%

(NA) 2001 Aug 3-5

39

24

21

16

         

(NA) 2000 Oct 25-28

42

19

17

22

(NA) 1998 Dec 28-29

46

22

16

16

(NA) 1998 Oct 9-12 ^

48

20

15

17

(NA) 1997 Sep 6-7

31

22

22

25

(Dem) 1998 May 8-10

40

17

23

20

         

^ Based on half sample



 

 

Speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert

 

 


Favorable


Unfavorable

Never
heard of

No
opinion

         

(NA) 2001 Aug 3-5

29%

15

36

20

         

(NA) 2000 Oct 25-28

28%

9

37

26

(NA) 1999 Sep 10-14

23%

7

22

48

(NA) 1999 Feb 19-21

31%

10

32

27



Senate Republican Leader, Trent Lott

 

 


Favorable


Unfavorable

Never
heard of

No
opinion

         
 

%

%

%

%

(NA) 2001 Jun 8-10

34

29

24

13

         

(NA) 1999 Feb 19-21

30

26

27

17

(NA) 1999 Jan 8-10

30

26

23

21

(NA) 1998 Dec 28-29

29

25

24

22

(NA) 1997 Dec 18-21 ^

22

20

37

21

(NA) 1997 Jun 26-29 ^

23

15

37

25

         

^ Senate Majority Leader, Trent Lott



Senate Democratic Leader, Tom Daschle

 


Favorable


Unfavorable

Never
heard of

No
opinion

         

(NA) 2001 Jun 8-10

34%

20

33

13



Do you approve or disapprove of the way [ROTATED] are handling their job?

A. The Republicans in Congress

 

 

Approve

Disapprove

No opinion

       
 

%

%

%

2001 Aug 3-5

49

40

11

       

2001 Jun 8-10

49

43

8

2000 Aug 18-19

45

44

11

2000 Jul 25-26

46

39

15

2000 Apr 28-30

42

46

12

1999 Nov 4-7

38

53

9

1999 Oct 8-10

37

55

8

1999 Aug 16-18

36

53

11

1999 Jun 25-27

40

53

7



B. The Democrats in Congress

 

 

Approve

Disapprove

No opinion

       
 

%

%

%

2001 Aug 3-5

52

38

10

       

2001 Jun 8-10

54

37

9

2000 Aug 18-19

56

34

10

2000 Jul 25-26

51

36

13

2000 Apr 28-30

46

42

12

1999 Nov 4-7

49

42

9

1999 Oct 8-10

48

44

8

1999 Aug 16-18

48

41

11

1999 Jun 25-27

46

46

8



Do you think the country would be better off if the Republicans controlled Congress, or if the Democrats controlled Congress?

 

 


Republicans


Democrats

NEITHER (vol.)

SAME
(vol.)

No
opinion

           
 

%

%

%

%

%

(NA) 2001 Aug 3-5

34

43

10

6

7

           

(NA) 2001 Apr 20-22

41

43

6

3

7

(NA) 2001 Jan 5-7

39

41

7

5

8

(NA) 1999 Jul 16-18

37

42

12

2

7

(NA) 1999 Jun 25-27

41

41

11

2

5

(NA) 1999 May 23-24

36

37

14

4

9

(NA) 1998 Dec 15-16

30

41

13

5

11

(NA) 1998 Sep 23-24

35

41

11

3

10

(NA) 1997 Aug 22-25

37

40

11

4

8

(NA) 1997 Jul 25-27

37

39

11

5

8

(NA) 1997 Jun 26-29

34

40

12

4

10

(LV) 1996 Oct 26-29

39

42

7

2

10

(NA) 1995 Dec 15-18

41

41

8

2

8

(NA) 1995 Mar 27-29

45

33

10

4

8

(NA) 1994 Oct 18-19

42

39

10

2

7



 

 

Do you consider the first six months of this year's session of Congress to be a [ROTATED: success (or a) failure] ?

 

 

 

 

Success

 

Failure

TOO SOON

TO TELL (vol.)

 

No opinion

         

2001 Aug 3-5

49%

33

6

12



 

 

 

Do you consider the first six months of the Bush administration to be a [ROTATED: success (or a) failure] ?

 

 

 

 

Success

 

Failure

TOO SOON

TO TELL (vol.)

 

No opinion

         

2001 Aug 3-5

56%

32

7

5



 

 

 

Next, thinking about the major pieces of legislation which the House or Senate passed this year, please say how much of a difference each of the following will make to you and your family as a law-- a major difference, a minor difference, or no difference at all. How about -- [RANDOM ORDER]?

 

 

A. A Patient's Bill of Rights

 

 

Major Difference

Minor Difference

No Difference

No opinion

         

2001 Aug 3-5

42%

35

17

6



 

 

B. President Bush's Energy Plan

 

 

Major Difference

Minor Difference

No Difference

No opinion

         

2001 Aug 3-5

40%

32

20

8



 

 

C. The Tax Cuts Passed by Congress Earlier this Year

 

 

Major Difference

Minor Difference

No Difference

No opinion

         

2001 Aug 3-5

36%

39

23

2



 

 

D. An Education Bill

 

 

Major Difference

Minor Difference

No Difference

No opinion

         

2001 Aug 3-5

42%

27

24

7



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