Approval Of Congress Rises To 21%

Congressional approval has been at historic lows for years now, but just in the last month it has risen to levels unseen in more than a year:

PRINCETON, NJ — Twenty-one percent of Americans approve of the job Congress is doing, higher than the 13% Gallup measured in September, and the highest rating in any month since May 2011.

The more positive evaluation of Congress could be a delayed reaction to the same factors that brought about improvement in Americans’ — and in particular Democrats’ — views of national conditions in September.Satisfaction with the United States and economic confidence increased significantly in September, mainly because of Democrats’ more positive ratings, before leveling off in October. The increases in satisfaction and economic confidence were apparent in the days after the Democratic National Convention at which the party nominated President Barack Obama as its presidential candidate as he seeks a second term in office.

In contrast, congressional approval rose modestly in September – to 13% from 10% in August — before this month’s more substantial increase.

Supporting the thesis that changes in Democrats’ views are driving the improvements in many national indicators, Democrats have shown the greatest increase in their evaluations of Congress this past month, to 30% from 16% approval. Independents’ and Republicans’ ratings are up more modestly, by eight percentage points (to 20% from 12%) and four points (to 14% from 10%), respectively.

Gallup does go on to point out that low Congressional job approval prior to a Presidential or Mid-Term Election has been associated with high turnover in the House of Representatives. The last time Congressional job approval was at 21%, in act, was just prior to the 2010 Mid-Terms which resulted in a historic turnover of 63 seats and the transfer of control from the Democrats to the Republicans. That doesn’t seem to be likely to happen this time, though. The parties are relatively even in the Generic Congressional Ballot, which tends to favor incumbents of both parties. Additionally, the current projection of the distribution of the House after the election makes a Democratic takeover seem impossible. Finally, there isn’t a single analyst who looks at this things who thinks the House is up for grabs this time. A seat or two may change parties, but the GOP is going to retain control of the House regardless of what happens further up the ballot.

The interesting question is why Congressional job approval has taken this up tick recently. After all, it’s not like Congress has actually done anything recently that would warrant a higher job approval rating. Part of it could be what Gallup suggests, that voters are more optimistic about the state of the country and this is causing them to view institutions of government more positively. It could also be that being in an election cycle as we are now has the effect of making people feel better about the political system, although that seems counter-intuitive. If you’re cynical, though, there’s another explanation that might make more sense:

One Hill staffer offered an alternative theory. “It’s because we’re not in session,” the aide told The Washington Examiner. Neither the Senate nor the House has been in session since September 21st, when Congress’s approval rating was 13 percent. (It was even lower in August, per Gallup, which recorded it at 10 percent.) Congress will return for the lame-duck session after the election.

(…)

Congress is truly doing nothing, this month, and the American people seem fine with it.

Well, it is generally better than the alternative.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2012, Congress, Public Opinion Polls, Quick Takes, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Dave Schuler says:

    The longer Congress is out of session the more approval they’ll get.

  2. JKB says:

    It is more than Congress being out of session. With the election, the summer break from the agency minions is extended. Normally, the staff season starts after Labor day (running to Thanksgiving when the Christmas, I mean Holiday, break begins). This year, with no budgets to get implemented, that has been extended. Perhaps the fall staff season will be cancelled all together.

    It’s not just Congress out of session, it is the administration distracted and the heads of the agencies out of the office. Americans like it when the government takes a break.

  3. Geek, Esq. says:

    @JKB:

    They like it when the government isn’t working in front of television cameras. Making sausage, etc.

  4. JKB says:

    @Geek, Esq.:

    True, if the break were to long, people would start to worry. America likes the foundation. They like the roof. It’s the ornate fixtures, gold inlay toilets and other fineries that get installed that wears on them. Each sounded good in the showroom but together they create disharmony. And when the credit card bill comes, the luster wears off quickly as the excess enslaves us to work to pay it off.

  5. An Interested Party says:

    Americans like it when the government takes a break.

    Oh sure…a break from law enforcement, a break from inspecting food, a break from helping people with essential services, etc. etc. etc….

    And when the credit card bill comes, the luster wears off quickly as the excess enslaves us to work to pay it off.

    Ahh, someone in favor of cutting the bloated defense budget…good for you!

  6. Barfour says:

    A lot of Americans, possibly a majority of Americans do not have the right to criticise what Congress is doing (or not doing). Majority or a significant number of Americans have abdicated their responsibility to provide oversight of Congress. Many Americans do not know what’s going on in Congress and many others are apathetic. Change and positive results do not happen on their own, it takes active and informed participation for them to happen. But what usually happens is that the vast majority of elected officials in Congress are re-elected, the voters that do turn out to vote, just look at the D or the R in front of the names and make their choice based on just that, no examination of voting record or competence.

    There is a major problem facing America today, which is also a factor in Congress’ poor performance, that problem is the extreme divisions that exist in America. These divisions are reflected in Congress. I think that there have to be leadership from the President, senior and other members of Congress, and others to deal with these divisions because the divisions are almost as much of a problem as the bad economy, the debt and other big issues. Almost nothing gets done in Washington because of these divisions and there are big decisions that have to be made by the next President and Congress concerning the debt, taxes, entitlement reform and so on.

    I think that future administrations have to be truly bipartizan, and what I mean by bipartizan is a Democratic nominee for President choosing a Republican or independent as his running mate and vice versa, a cabinet and an administration that is made up of equal number of Democrats and Republicans. There was some talk 4 years ago that Barack Obama might pick Chuck Hagel as his running mate. I don’t know if Hagel would have been interested in that job but I think that would have been a powerful demonstration to Americans that Obama was truly bipartizan and would’ve likely changed the tone in politics in America and in Washington.

  7. wr says:

    @Barfour: ” I don’t know if Hagel would have been interested in that job but I think that would have been a powerful demonstration to Americans that Obama was truly bipartizan and would’ve likely changed the tone in politics in America and in Washington. ”

    Yes, because when Obama chose Republican Jon Huntsman as his ambassador to China, the right all rallied around the choice and came together to nominate Huntsman for president.

    Oh, no, wait. They called him a traitor and a RINO and barely gave him one percent of the vote in any primary.

    Because no one cares about “bipartisanship” besides a bunch of overpaid pundits who only care about process and have no interest in the vast differences in priorities that separate the parties.

  8. Tillman says:

    While I agree with most everything Barfour said, wr is right: Hagel was pretty much already considered a RINO by the time of his departure. Republicans would’ve disowned him, and Hagel and the Democratic Party would have had too many disagreements policywise for it to work.

    @JKB:

    It’s the ornate fixtures, gold inlay toilets and other fineries that get installed that wears on them. Each sounded good in the showroom but together they create disharmony. And when the credit card bill comes, the luster wears off quickly as the excess enslaves us to work to pay it off.

    Ladies and Gentlemen, here is JKB telling us all that America, still the biggest economy in the world, can’t afford luxurious bathroom fixtures. Because the rest of the mansion is just so darn expensive!

  9. Pastor Agnostic says:

    that is ONLY because they have done nothing. Except raise funds and campaign. Given the make up of the House of Reprehensibles, we have something for which to be grateful.

  10. 11B40 says:

    Greetings:

    I think that it’s because Congress has the bestest ever First Woman ex-Speaker of the House of Representatives.