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Gallup poll: Congressional approval ties lowest numbers on record

August 16, 2011|By Michael Muskal
  • President Obama speaks at the town hall-style meeting Monday at a park in Cannon Falls, Minn. Obama is on a bus tour of Minnesota, Iowa and Illinois.
President Obama speaks at the town hall-style meeting Monday at a park in… (Joe Raedle / Getty Images )

It is the institution that everyone loves to hate and according to the latest Gallup poll released on Tuesday, there is seemingly no bottom to Americans’ disapproval of Congress.

According to the poll, a bare 13% of those surveyed approve of Congress, tying the worst record recorded in December 2010. Disapproval of the national lawmakers stood at 84%, a percentage point higher (hence, worse) than last December’s.

The findings are based on telephone interviews with a random sample of 1,008 adults conducted Aug. 11 to 14. It has a margin of error of plus or minus four percentage points.


Politically, the poll comes after Washington was paralyzed before reaching an agreement to raise the debt ceiling and agreed to more than $2 billion in spending cuts. The negotiations among a Congress divided along Democratic and Republican lines and a GOP split in its conservative ranks lasted weeks and left a foul aftertaste for voters.

The poll also comes after the rating agency Standard & Poor’s downgraded the United States credit rating,  contributing to a week of stock market volatility that seemed to be the trading equivalent of break dancing on steroids.


Gallup has measured Americans' approval rating of Congress since 1974 and the average over that time has been about 34%, better than double the current finding. The current unhappiness crosses all political lines with those calling themselves independents the most critical of Congress, with just a 9% approval rating and 86% disapproving. Not surprisingly, Republicans and Democrats give Congress a better grade but are still overwhelmingly negative.


But the role of Congress goes to the heart of President Obama’s immediate political and policy strategy of trying to blame congressional Republicans for the failures of the economic recovery to take hold and the inability of society to generate enough jobs to bring the unemployment rate down below 9.1%. Speaking at the start of his three-day bus tour through the Midwest, the president, whose own approval ratings have been falling, made no secret of who he thinks is at fault.

“There is no shortage of ideas to put people to work right now,” Obama said at a town hall-style meeting in Cannon Falls, Minn. “What is needed is action on the part of Congress, a willingness to put the partisan games aside and say, we’re going to do what’s right for the country, not what we think is going to score some political points for the next election.”

It is unclear how Obama’s criticism will effect negotiations with Congress on the president’s promised jobs package. Traditionally, if you can’t win the issue, winning the politics is often the recourse. The 2012 elections are well under way and according to the polls they seem destined to be played out against a background of decreased approval of all political institutions.

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