In today’s highly polarized political environment, it seems there are few things on which Democrats and Republicans can agree. Among the American public, however, a broad new consensus has emerged uniting people from across the partisan political spectrum: Republican-Democrat party control of the United States Congress is highly objectionable.
A new Gallup poll on Congress Approval Rating published on Tuesday finds that just 10% of Americans approve of the way the Congress is handling its job, while a whopping 83% say they disapprove of the current federal legislature. The 10% mark matches a historic low found in February of this year. Over the last four decades, Congress’s approval rating has averaged 34% in Gallup’s surveys. It has now been below 20% since June 2011.
Americans across the political spectrum have a highly negative view of the divided Congress, in which the House is controlled by Republicans and the Senate by Democrats. Just 11% of Independents, 10% of Republicans and 9% of Democrats surveyed for the poll said they approve of the way the Congress is handling its job.
In recent months, the Congressional favorability rating has dropped by more than 50% among Democrats. In June, 20% of Democrats said they approved of the way the Congress was handling it’s job. On the other hand, Independents’ views of the Congress have improved slightly over the course of the present year. Late last year, just 7% of Independents said they approved of the way the Congress was handling its job. Republicans were much more positive toward the Congress on the heels of the 2010 midterm elections. In February 2011, 22% of Republicans said they had a favorable view of the legislature.
Theories abound to explain the public’s highly negative assessment of the US House and Senate. Gallup suggests a poor economy combined with a divided Congress may account for the consistently low approval numbers, arguing that a divided legislature provides “an opportunity for Americans of all political persuasions to dislike some aspect of Congress.” Others argue that the current Congress’ lack of productivity is to blame.
In an article for USA Today, Susan Davis states that the 112th Congress is the least productive legislature since the end of World War II, using the number of bills passed as the prime measure of productivity.
“Not even the 80th Congress, which President Truman called the “do-nothing Congress” in 1948, passed as few laws as the current one, records show,” writes Davis. “The inertia continues to fuel Congress’ historically low approval ratings, which hit 10 percent on Tuesday, according to Gallup polling.”
Yet, if history is any guide, despite these negative ratings Americans will overwhelmingly vote to retain roughly 90% of their sitting representatives in the House and Senate on election day this November, according to numbers compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics.
The contradiction here could not be more apparent: 10% of Americans approve of the way the Congress is handling its job, but it is highly likely that 90% of those representatives will be reelected in November.
Why do Americans continue to support Republicans and Democrats of whom they do not approve?