Congressional Job Approval Hits Record Low
Once again, pretty much everybody hates Congress. However, it's unclear if that will matter come Election Day.
After a month and a half in which we saw Congress tear itself apart over a Federal Government shutdown and a Republican plan to defund or delay the Affordable Care Act, followed by a flawed implementation of that law which has turned into a political football on Capitol Hill, it shouldn’t be too surprising to find that Congressional Job Approval has hit another record low:
PRINCETON, NJ — Americans’ approval of the way Congress is handling its job has dropped to 9%, the lowest in Gallup’s 39-year history of asking the question. The previous low point was 10%, registered twice in 2012.
Congress approval fell to 11% in October, during the U.S. government shutdown. Although the shutdown is now history, Americans’ views of Congress have not recovered, but instead have edged lower. By contrast, Americans’ confidence in the economy has begun to improve in the last several weeks. The continuing depression in Americans’ views of Congress has occurred even though the troubles with the rollout of President Barack Obama’s signature Affordable Care Act are now dominating U.S. political news.
Public displeasure with Congress is equally rampant across political groups, with Republicans (9%), independents (8%), and Democrats (10%) giving the institution similarly low approval ratings.
Twenty percent of Democrats approved of Congress in September, but their approval plummeted to 5% in October during the shutdown. This month, Democrats’ approval improved slightly, but is still well below levels measured earlier this year.
As always, the chart tells the tale:
To be fair, and as the chart makes clear, this number clearly does fluctuate depending on what’s going on in the news at the time. For example, even after hitting a record low of 10% twice last year, the number jumped up as high as 21% in late 2012, likely around the time of the 2012 elections. Additionally, until taking a dive in the past two months or so, the numbers stayed not to far away from that 21% number before nosediving as we headed into the shutdown showdown Furthermore, while the number has clearly been on something of a downward slope since 2009 when it nearly hit 40% in the wake of President Obama’s Inauguration, it also hasn’t stayed close to its low numbers for a considerably long period of time before rebounding into a range that, while low, is still closer to what has been the historical norm. Presumably, we’ll see something similar happen in the coming months unless, of course, Congress does something stupid again in the months to come, which is entirely possible.
The other thing to keep in mind is that there doesn’t seem to be much correlation between this Gallup number and the outcome of Congressional elections. With the exception of the 2008 campaign, when public faith in government at all levels was low thanks to the financial crisis. Congressional Job Approval has been at or near 20% on both of the last two occasions when its membership was up for reelection. One of those elections, of course, was 2010 when the GOP ended up taking back control of the House and making significant inroads in the Senate while the other was just last year when the GOP held onto the House while suffering some minor setbacks in the Senate. So, it’s unclear what this number actually means other than as proof of the old adage that everybody hates Congress, something that has been true ever since men like Will Rogers and Mark Twain were cracking jokes about the body.
Given the above, I’d be careful about drawing any political conclusions from this poll, or even from drawing any conclusions at this early point from the Generic Congressional Ballot, which RealClearPolitics currently has at a +5.6 point advantage for Democrats. In that particular case, it’s simply too early in the 2014 cycle to know if the number means anything or can be of any predictive value. The 2010 Generic Ballot, for example, fluctuated quite a bit in the year leading up to the elections, it wasn’t until August 2010 or so that the trend toward the GOP became apparent. I would expect that things will be the same in 2014, with the added caveat that post-2010 Census redistricting would seem to make the odds of the GOP losing the House very low.
Nonetheless, we can say that being a Congressman is now among America’s most hated professions. Nice work there, guys.