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Americans' view of Congress at all-time low

In a Gallup Poll, 76% in the U.S. say most representatives do not deserve to be reelected. But a slim majority would keep their own leaders in their House seats.

December 10, 2011|By Michael A. Memoli, Washington Bureau
  • Demonstrators chant for jobs outside Capitol Hill.
Demonstrators chant for jobs outside Capitol Hill. (Jose Luis Magana / Associated…)

Reporting from Washington — Americans' hostility toward members of Congress is at a record high, a new Gallup Poll found.

Seventy-six percent of those surveyed said most representatives do not deserve to be reelected, the highest number in the 19 years Gallup has asked the question and six points higher than in August, just after the contentious debate over raising the debt ceiling.

Only 20% said most members should be reelected, a record low.

"If voters' current sentiments toward Congress prevail through next November's election, it is possible that control of the House would flip back to the Democrats," wrote Frank Newport, editor in chief of the Gallup Poll.

It's just the latest negative metric for federal legislators. A Gallup Poll conducted in November put Congress' job approval rating at 13%, tying an all-time low.

The findings come just after the congressional "super committee" failed to agree on a plan to reduce the nation's long-term deficits, and as lawmakers are again at odds over whether to extend a payroll tax holiday into 2012.

"No wonder people give Congress 10% approval ratings," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters Friday.

Control of Congress will likely be overshadowed by the presidential race in 2012. But control of both the House, currently in Republican control, and the Senate, held narrowly by Democrats, are very much at stake.

The landscape in House races is uncertain as some states have yet to finalize new district boundaries, as required to reflect population shifts in the decennial census.

David Wasserman, who analyzes House races for the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, said voters' antipathy toward Congress is no guarantee that Democrats will have an advantage.

Democrats won control of the House in 2006 after 12 years of Republican control and added another 21 seats in 2008, when Barack Obama won the White House. But Republicans picked up 63 seats in the 2010 midterms to regain the chamber.

"I find it hard to believe that we'll have another big swing in the House," Wasserman said.

Even though Congress as an institution is historically unpopular, Gallup found that 53% of those polled said they would reelect their own representative. Those numbers are low, but not record lows.

"Most voters believe Washington is broken because other people's congressman broke it," Wasserman said.

Democrats would need to pick up 25 seats to regain the House.

michael.memoli@latimes.com

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