Congressional Approval Ratings Drop To Match Record Lows

New polling information shows that the approval of Congress has dipped near record lows, and voters might express their dissatisfaction in the next election cycle. As The New York Times writes,

Congress faces historically low approval ratings as it wades into the debate over the $447 billion jobs package proposed by President Obama, with just 12 percent of Americans now approving of the way Congress is handling its job, matching its all-time low, recorded in October 2008 at the height of the economic crisis, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.

Voters are slightly more disapproving of the Republicans in Congress than they are of the Democrats, with just 19 percent approving of Republicans, compared with 28 percent that approve of Democrats.

Republican voters are more dissatisfied with their party’s representatives than are Democrats. Half of Republican voters say they disapprove of Republicans in Congress, while 43 percent of Democratic voters say they disapprove of Democrats in Congress. Independents are slightly less approving of Congressional Republicans than Congressional Democrats.

Only 6 percent of registered voters say that most members of Congress have earned re-election, while 84 percent say it’s time to give someone new a chance, a historic low for the New York Times/CBS poll. Dissatisfaction with Congress runs deep across both parties, with more than 8 in 10 of both Republicans and Democrats saying it’s time to elect new representatives.

In follow-up interviews, partisanship and bickering were given as major reasons for respondents’ disapproval of Congress.

The poll, which was conducted through nationwide telephone interviews of 1,452 adults between Sept. 10-15, indicates the potential for massive electoral shake-ups.

The dismal approval ratings are not surprising when considering the debt ceiling debacle and general inefficiency of Congress this summer. Political squabbling has brought the nation to the brink of economic ruin, and the inability to reach agreement on even the most routine measures led to partial shutdowns of government agencies like the Federal Aviation Administration. The poll shows that the Republicans have been hurt more by the political chaos. However, Congressional Republicans have also succeeded in their goal of thwarting any progress, which might help them in both the Congressional and presidential races. E.J. Dionne calls this the “election paradox”: “Up to a point, Republicans in Congress can afford to let their own ratings fall well below the president’s, as long as they drag him further into negative territory. If the president’s ratings are poor next year, Democrats won’t be able to defeat enough Republicans to take back the House and hold the Senate. The GOP can win if the mood is terribly negative toward Washington because voters see Obama as the man in charge.”

In this way, the public’s general dissatisfaction with Congress might play into the Republicans’ belief that the federal government is bad. How these opinions will affect elections is yet to be seen.


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