Poll: Gridlock Is The Biggest Problem With Congress

Congress gets bad grades in Gallup's latest poll, and gridlock is the main reason


A new Gallup poll finds respondents saying that gridlock is the top reason that they are critical of Congress:

PRINCETON, NJ — Nearly four in five Americans in June, 78%, disapprove of the way Congress is handling its job, marking the 45th consecutive month that more than two-thirds of Americans have given Congress the thumbs down. Americans’ high level of disapproval is less about what Congress is doing than about what it isn’t doing: putting aside partisan bickering and getting things done.

These results are based on a June 1-4 Gallup poll in which Americans were asked to explain, in their own words, “some of the reasons” they either approve or disapprove of Congress.

The top reason Americans who disapprove of Congress give for their view is partisan gridlock, named by 28%. Relatedly, another 21% cite Congress’ failure to accomplish anything or make decisions, and 11% say Congress puts politics ahead of the country. More policy related, 2% cite Congress’ failure to address unemployment, and 1% mention lack of action on the economy. Overall, 59% of Congress’ detractors mention at least one of these reasons, making congressional inaction the overwhelming criticism Americans express regarding the legislative body.

Aside from this, a net 19% of Americans who disapprove mention congressional action on a specific issue, such as healthcare, taxes, immigration, or gun control as the main reason they disapprove of Congress. Nine percent have complaints about congressional ethics or behavior, ranging from lack of transparency and failure “to listen,” to dishonesty and frequency of vacations. Another 8% cannot provide a specific reason for their negative view of Congress.

The poll also finds that inaction is the main problem that both Republicans and Democrats have with Congress:

Congress Gallup 1


Given this, it’s not surprising that public Confidence is at a record low:

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Americans’ confidence in Congress as an institution is down to 10%, ranking the legislative body last on a list of 16 societal institutions for the fourth straight year. This is the lowest level of confidence Gallup has found, not only for Congress, but for any institution on record. Americans remain most confident in the military, at 76%.


The percentage of Americans expressing a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in Congress is the lowest for a trend that dates back to 1973. The high point for Congress, 42%, came in that year.

Confidence in Congress has been at its lowest points for several years, while it was higher in the mid-1980s and in the early 2000s.

And the lack of confidence is basically the same among Republicans, Democrats, and Independents:

Congress Gallup 2


Taken together what these two sets of numbers tell us is that the public highly disapproves of the job Congress is doing, says that the main reason for their opinion is Congressional gridlock, and has almost no confidence in Congress as an institution at all. This suggests that Congress could change its image at least somewhat if the partisan games and jockeying position were put to a minimum so that they could get their jobs done.  At the moment, of course, we’ve got one political party on Capitol Hill with a sizable group of members who want nothing to do with compromise and working together, and have proceeded to act accordingly for two years now. To the extent the public is watching you’d think that this would hurt the party most associated with gridlock. However, if you look at actual election results, along with polls and the realities of the battle for control of the House and Senate, you see that it’s likely that the GOP will hold on to the House in 2014, and at least has a good shot of cutting down the size of the Democratic majority in the Senate. It’s one of those things that make you wonder just how much the public really does hate Congress.

FILED UNDER: Congress, Public Opinion Polls, US Politics, , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held 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 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Pinky says:

    Silly poll. Everyone thinks Congress isn’t doing enough, but half the people want to see it do more conservative things, and half want to see it be more liberal. I bet 95% of sports fans want to see their team win more often, too.

  2. HarvardLaw92 says:

    Chicken / egg … They want Congress to be less partisan and work towards compromise, but then they elect people to Congress pretty much specifically because they are partisan and unwilling to compromise.

    Electorate, seek out the nearest mirror in order to identify the problem.

  3. stonetools says:


    BIngo. Still, I’m hopeful that the public realizes that what the public wants to see done is far more consonant with the DEMOCRATIC PARTY program, not the Republicans. If you are really concerned with unemployment, vote for the party that advocates for a jobs bill, fer Pete’s sake-not for the austerity party. I know that the conventional wisdom is that the Dems won’t do well next year, but these are unconventional times. The sharp division on issues down part lines means that the public is going to have to make a decision on which way the country is going to go, and if you want action, you are going to have to vote one party or the other into a controlling majority.The public has already done that at the state level. I expect that they are now ready to do it at the national level, if the Democrats message it right.

  4. Blue Shark says:

    …Party of “NO” … Your table is ready.

  5. al-Ameda says:


    Electorate, seek out the nearest mirror in order to identify the problem.

    Exactly right. I agree completely. The People are the problem – these representatives do not (with the possible exception of Michele Bachmann) come from another planet or another country, they come from where we live and vote. We, the people SAY we want compromise and consensus solutions but clearly we’re not being honest. We’re polarized and our Congress reflects that.

  6. stonetools says:


    I think that DEMOCRATS are OK with compromise and consensus. REPUBLICAN voters, however, want their representatives to resist compromise. Because the Republicans have enough power , they are very successful in stopping government altogether. I see no solution other than electing enough Democrats so that Republicans can’t block things any longer. I’ve completely given up on the idea that we can coax, shame, or bribe Republicans into compromise. Obama thought he was uniquely capable of doing that. He was wrong.

  7. HarvardLaw92 says:


    Raising my hand as a Republican (albeit of the Eisenhower variety), I’d offer a slight modification:

    My party, for reasons passing understanding, has fallen under the erroneous belief that we have to pander to the extreme nutty nether-regions of our base (aka the Tea Party).

    The Democrats handle this one much better than we do. They’ll cheerfully promise the moon to the nutties on the far left fringe of their base, but they rarely, if ever, deliver on those promises (for obvious reasons) and they never (as far as I can tell anyway) give the nutties a seat at the table.

    Because we’re apparently so terrified of primary challenges from the farther right, we cave and act in ways (obstruction, crazy laws, babbling away on Fox in an effort to out-conservative one another) that we think make the crazies like us so they’ll vote for us.

    Those people, despite all of their blathering and snake flag waving, are never going to vote anything but Republican. They are not going to vote Libertarian, they are not going to vote Democrat and they are not going to sit at home on their hands in protest. They are a locked-in constituency. We’ve somehow gotten the idea that we have to allow the tail to wag the dog.

    The sooner that we as a party collectively realize that we’re being held hostage by bombthrowers, and throw those folks under the bus, the better off we’ll all be.

  8. The most disliked leaders in the much hated Congress are Pelosi and Reed. The logical leap that it is Republicans that are the problem doesn’t survive drilling down to individuals. I don’t much like my Congressman but am happy to keep him in office so long as he counters Pelosi and Reed.

  9. michael reynolds says:


    The Democratic Party has nuts. The GOP is nuts.

    This is what comes of confusing votes with ratings, and principles with holy writ. Your party wins the 8 o’clock hour on cable news. My party wins the White House.

  10. michael reynolds says:

    @Let’s Be Free:

    No, sorry. Your side just focuses more on demonizing specific people. We don’t obsess over the impotent Mr. Boehner and that absurd creature from Kentucky.

  11. Caj says:

    Definitely gridlock! Lack of common sense and doing the work of the people is the last thing they are concerned about as well. We the people put them in office. I hope to God we the people kick those time wasting useless pieces of crap out ASAP! They don’t deserve one red cent. You actually have to perform on the job before you ever get paid. Those jokers don’t know what a hard days work is!!

  12. Jack says:

    Gridlock is not a bug, it’s a feature.

  13. stonetools says:


    Sorry about that. I think the current Republican Party is just simply just a force for mindless obstruction and the promotion of conservative crackpot ideas. It will take a couple of national landslide defeats before the Republicans see reason.

  14. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @michael reynolds:

    To be fair, both sides have their share of nuts. Bernie Sanders? Just saying 😀

    I agree that we have more than our fair share of crazy lately, but I’d say it’s because of the argument above. Somewhere along the way we decided that we had to give crazies a seat at the table in order to remain viable as a party.

    We also (unfortunately) have much more of a religion problem than you guys do, centered around that gift you gave us in the late 1960s. The South used to be your problem; now (yay …) it’s our problem.

  15. michael reynolds says:

    I wonder if it was 1860 and we all knew what we know now. . .

  16. al-Ameda says:

    @michael reynolds:

    I wonder if it was 1860 and we all knew what we know now. . .

    The only mistake Lincoln made was in not letting the South leave the Union.

  17. HarvardLaw92 says:


    I’ve said that in semi-jest many times. Rather than fighting a war to keep them, we should have just offered to help them pack. Culturally, ideologically and so on it is essentially another country already, and trying to force the two together just hurts both sides.

  18. Gullible White Cattle says:

    Gridlock is there because America is now just a market, no longer a nation with one will, one culture, one outlook. this is not left vs right, GOP vs Dems, Socialism vs liberty. This is war against White people.

    Why do hostile globalist elite defend Israel as a Jewish ethnostate with Jewish only immigration, but ravage White majority Europe/North America into a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural Gulag with dystopian non-White colonization?

    The world is 93% non-White, only 7% White. But 3rd world colonizers, Muslims, Sikhs, Hispanics, are aggressively advancing their agenda to annihilate gullible Whites, just as China annihilates Tibet.

    How long will gullible Whites cuckold for murderous anti-White elite, who confiscate our guns, infiltrate/subvert our banks/FBI/CIA, indoctrinate White kids in academia/mass media, plunder White jobs/wages, & butcher White soldiers in bankrupting wars?

    “Native” Americans invaded from East Asia. Yellow & Brown races committed 10-times more genocide, slavery, imperialism than Whites. Since Old-Testament, Whites have been victims of Jewish/Crypto-Jewish, Turkic, Muslim, N.African imperialism, slavery, genocide.

    Gullible Whites should reject subversive ideologies- libertarianism, feminism, liberalism- & reject hostile slanders of racism. Peace to all humanity, but White people must organize to advance their interests, their fertility, their homelands. Spread this message. Reading list: goo.gl/iB777 , goo.gl/htyeq , amazon.com/dp/0759672229 , amazon.com/dp/1410792617

  19. @michael reynolds: Just keep on thinking that way.

  20. Pinky says:

    @Gullible White Cattle: Thank you for directing that comment at me. I’m new around here, and I’ve been curious to test out the limits of this site’s comment policy.

    What you said is stupid. It has nothing to do with gridlock, or any other aspect of this discussion. It’s racist and obnoxious and wrong. There are a couple of things you have right, but maybe the worst thing you have right is that charges of racism are tossed around in against non-racists. I say worst, because you’re using it as a shield for your racism.Of course the left caricatures its opponents as racists, and the only way to have an adult conversation is to call them on it. But the one or two racist conspiratorial nutbags on the right make the work a lot harder for the rest of the right.

    The fact that what you’re saying is crazy and racist is easy for everyone to see. But it obscures the fact that most of the people who oppose liberalism would never think this nonsense. This kind of race-fixation is more a characteristic of the left.

  21. Pinky says:

    @HarvardLaw92: Culturally and politically, there is no North/South split in the US, as much as there’s an urban/rural split. The areas with higher population density (cities and suburbs of larger cities) lean one direction, the other areas (small towns and rural areas) lean the other. There are districts in Mississippi that vote more Democrat than districts in rural Massachusetts. Downtown Austin has more in common with Detroit politically than either city has in common with the small towns in their states.

  22. Pinky says:

    And do you care so little about slavery that you wish it had continued?

  23. Matt Bernius says:


    The sooner that we as a party collectively realize that we’re being held hostage by bombthrowers, and throw those folks under the bus, the better off we’ll all be.

    The challenge that the party faces is that the derpy side of the party (to channel Barro) has been monetized and turned into a major revenue stream for both the party and some of the party’s biggest supporters.

    It’s impossible — at least for the moment — to find an analog to Conservative Inc/The Right Wing Media complex on the left. MSNBC or the Progressive Rags just don’t have the audience power, and Democratic politicians are not relying on either for financial and messaging support.

    I have a hard time seeing the change that you are looking for happening without significant changes to the Right Wing Media Complex. Or rather, it’s only going to happen when the Derpy side of the party REALLY screws up (immigration reform could be that moment). But if reform is going to happen it’s going to mean that the adults are going to have to get up and walk away from the Radio side of the equation (if no Fox News).

  24. al-Ameda says:


    I’ve said that in semi-jest many times. Rather than fighting a war to keep them, we should have just offered to help them pack. Culturally, ideologically and so on it is essentially another country already, and trying to force the two together just hurts both sides.

    I’ve said the same in (sort of) jest also. In fact I’ve had somewhat heated discussions on that subject with relatives from Huntsville and Waco. I tell them that the Civil War was fought for nearly nothing – after the war the we lapsed into a period of nearly 100 years of segregation, apartheid, and Jim Crow laws. Was that worth the loss of hundreds of thousands of lives? I’d love to hear a discussion on that with say, Haley Barbour, Jeff Sessions, Rand Paul, and John Lewis.