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Americans' views of Congress reach historic lows

August 12, 2011|By Michael A. Memoli
(Jim Urquhart / AP )

As bad a stretch as President Obama has had of late -- and there's no denying it's been bad -- the recent debt-ceiling hike has managed to draw an already unpopular Congress to new depths, according to a series of new polls.

Consider these findings:

  • A CNN/Opinion Research poll shows just 14% of voters approve of Congress's job performance, while 84% disapprove -- both records.
  • A CBS/New York Times poll has similar numbers -- 14% approve and 82% disapprove of Congress' job performance, the latter an all-time high.
  • A Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll puts Congress' approval even lower -- 10%. That's a drop from 20% in late June.
  • Just 18% of registered voters in a Washington Post survey said they were inclined to vote to re-elect their representative in Congress -- the lowest number in more than two decades (only once before had it ever dipped below 30%).
Congress has rarely polled very well. But as Arizona Sen. John McCain joked during the 2008 primaries, polling this low means we're down to just close relatives and paid staff in the approval camp.

Republicans, in particular are drawing voter ire. In the CNN poll, only 33% view the Republican Party favorably, down from 41% in July, and 59% view the party unfavorably, the highest-ever recorded. Meanwhile, Americans' view of the Democratic Party actually improved -- from 45% in July to 47% in August.

Speaker John Boehner's favorable rating dropped 10% from July to August, to 33%. It's the first time since he became speaker that more voters view him unfavorably than favorably.

And a Gallup survey released Friday show that if the elections for Congress were being held today, 51% of respondents would choose the Democratic Party candidate while 44% would choose the Republican -- the best showing for Democrats in about two years.

Obama's own ratings have slipped to near all-time lows, but he's managed to stay at worst in the low 40% range -- Gallup's daily tracking poll shows him steady at 41% through Thursday.

So it's no wonder why Obama is mounting a campaign against Congress as he seeks to revive his personal brand.

On Thursday in Michigan, Obama said he wanted to "enlist" the public to make their grievances known to their representatives about the gridlock in Congress.

"People are frustrated.  Maybe you hear it in my voice -- that's why I'm frustrated. Because you deserve better," Obama said.

Democrats have been circulating reports of the angry reception some Republicans have been facing at town hall meetings during the recess so far.

"Playing games with America's crediting rating, voting to end Medicare while protecting tax breaks for Big Oil and billionaires, and kowtowing to the "tea party" have cost Republicans' support among critically important independent voters," the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee said in a memo to reporters Friday.

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