The approval ratings of the federal government, and of Congress in particular, remain at an abysmal low. A CBS News poll (.pdf) released on Friday found that just 11% of Americans approve of the way the Congress is handling its job while 82% disapprove. This broad majority represents a veritable national consensus across all partisan lines. Among those polled, 77% of Democrats, 81% of Republicans, and 87% of Independents expressed disapproval of the current Congress.
Ironically, the 11% approval rating actually represents a step up. It is 2% higher than the all-time low of 9% recorded by CBS last month. Editorial boards are alarmed by the numbers.
"Survey after survey in recent months has shown an alarming decline in public confidence in the nation's chief federal institutions, as well as a deepening pessimism about America's future. Congressional approval is at an all-time low of 13 percent, according to the Gallup Poll, and three-quarters of the public wouldn't re-elect most members of Congress," opined The Washington Examiner over the weekend.
The Examiner editorial does not mention, however, that though the approval rating of Congress as a whole barely crosses into the double digits, a majority of Americans nonetheless state that their own Congressional representative deserves re-election. A Gallup poll released on Friday proclaimed that the survey group had found "record high anti-incumbent sentiment toward Congress." The situation certainly sounds dire. 76% of registered voters told the pollster that most members of Congress do not deserve re-election, the highest such percentage the organization has found in nearly two decades of surveys. The previous high of 70% was recorded in August. And, once again, the national consensus spans all partisan lines. 68% of Democrats, 75% of Republicans and 82% of Independents told Gallup that most members of Congress do not deserve re-election.
The situation is quite different, however, when one inquires about registered voters' views toward their own representatives. In the very same poll, Gallup found that 53% of registered voters believe their own representative in the US House deserves to be re-elected, compared with just 39% who said the opposite. Historically, Americans tend to have more positive views about their own representatives than of Congress as a whole. The 53% majority who believe their own representative deserves re-election is just 5% higher than the survey's record low of 48% on this particular question in 1992.
Unfortunately, so long as Americans continue to turn a blind eye toward the deficiencies of their own representatives, we will all continue to suffer from inadequate representation in government. When we cast our ballots, after all, we do not vote on Congress as a whole, but rather for our own individual delegate. If we are going to clean house, we have to begin at home. If you desire to "throw the bums out," as the old saying goes, you must first stop voting them in.