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81% of Americans Disapprove of Congress, Two-Party System to Blame

by Jane Susskind, published


In some not-so-shocking news from Gallup, Congressional approval ratings remain at historically low levels, with just 14% of Americans approving of the way Congress is handling its job.

This brings their annual average to 15% thus far in 2013, which at this rate, would mean they would tie 2012 as the lowest yearly average since Gallup began asking the question.


Congress' historically low numbers can partially be attributed to a divided Congress, with Republicans controlling the House and Democrats holding a majority in Senate.

"With control of Congress divided between the two parties, it is harder for voters to assign blame and thus give control of Congress to the minority party, as occurred in those other elections."

Congress, however, has been divided since 2011, as noted by Gallup, meaning that additional factors are in play leading to the deteriorating approval rating for our elected officials.

One such factor could be the legislative body's recent recess, and their inability to compromise before leaving Washington on key issues such as student loan debt, the economy, and gun control.

Empirically, low approval ratings for Congress have resulted in higher turnover rates in election years, as made evident in 1994, 2006, and 2010.

While conventional rationale would suggest that America's current level of dissatisfaction would similarly result in a higher turnover of seats in Congress in the coming election year, this type of thinking ignores the state of the system through which we elect officials.

Despite an increasingly moderate electorate, the barriers to candidacy put in place by the two-party system ensure their continued dominance in the political sphere, with practices like gerrymandering and closed primaries barring both independent-minded candidates and voters from participating in the system.

With 40% of the American electorate choosing not to affiliate with a political party, approval ratings will not increase unless Congress begins working together to represent the people, not their parties.

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