Congressional Approval Rating At Historic Lows

According to the latest Gallup Poll, Congress’s approval rating is at a low not seen since the days when guys like Tom Foley were in charge:

PRINCETON, NJ — A new Gallup Poll finds Congress’ approval rating the lowest it has been since Gallup first tracked public opinion of Congress with this measure in 1974. Just 18% of Americans approve of the job Congress is doing, while 76% disapprove, according to the August 13-16, 2007, Gallup Poll.

That 18% job approval rating matches the low recorded in March 1992, when a check-bouncing scandal was one of several scandals besetting Congress, leading many states to pass term limits measures for U.S. representatives (which the Supreme Court later declared unconstitutional). Congress had a similarly low 19% approval rating during the energy crisis in the summer of 1979.

And what could the reason be for this historic low ? The Gallup people think there are a few:

Americans elected the Democrats as the majority party in Congress in November 2006’s midterm election in large part due to frustration with the Iraq war and an ineffective and scandal-plagued Republican-led Congress. But any hopes that the elections would lead to change have not been realized as Democrats’ repeated attempts to force a change in Iraq war policy have been largely unsuccessful due to presidential vetoes, disagreements within their own party, and the inability to attract Republican support for their policy proposals. Also, many of the Democratic leadership’s domestic agenda items have not become law even though some have passed one or both houses of Congress.

As the trend in congressional approval makes clear, ratings of Congress usually suffer during times of economic uncertainty, as during the late 1970s and early 1990s. While Americans’ ratings of current economic conditions are not near historical lows, there is a great deal of concern about the direction in which the economy is headed. The latest poll finds a record 72% of Americans saying the economy is “getting worse.”

It’s not at all surprising that the Democrats have disappointed the public. After all, the leadership that came into power in January isn’t all that different from the people that were in charge back when Newt Gingrich’s revolution rolled through the country and brought Republican majorities in both Houses of Congress. In fact, in some case, the same people who were in charge back then are in charge again now.

That’s the problem with the “throw the bums out” idea. More often than not, it really means “throw the bums out and bring back the bums we threw out the last time.” In the end, very little gets accomplished.

That’s why it’s time to start thinking about some radical ideas. Like term limits and returning Congress to the citizen legislature it was meant to be. And, although I know this is never likely to happen, repealing the 17th Amendment for the reasons I named in this post.

It’s time to start thinking some radical thoughts people.

  • Nick M

    My radical thoughts will get me labeled a ….

  • trumpetbob15

    I wonder why people put so much faith in Gallup. Could it be the low approval ratings come from people who are fed up with Congressional scandals, not just Republican ones? There is crap on both sides.

    Here are my reasons for the low numbers. 1) Democrats haven’t cleaned up the corruption, merely sanctioned part of it. 2) Gallup is giving the Democrats a pass for not being able to get a consensus to override the Presidential veto. I don’t buy that. Democrats in Congress haven’t had the balls to stick to their policy decisions, mainly because they uh, yeah, voted to go into Iraq. 3) What policies the Democrats have passed have been far-left goals like raising the minimum wage. The average American doesn’t care about, and is actually harmed by, the minimum wage increase. 4) Gallup says Congress suffers when the economy is hurting. Well, the media has been praising the falling economy for awhile now so is it any wonder that voters think the economy is bad? Then again, with the economic dunces in Congress right now, do people really think the economy will get better? Will they credit Democrats for it even since most Democrat policies being promoted would hurt the economy?

    The overall approval numbers are low simply because the Democrats haven’t actually done what the regular Joe voter elected them to do. Bickering with the President is a welcome diversion for limited government folks, but it won’t raise anybody’s approval ratings with the majority of the country.

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  • Chepe Noyon

    Gallup is giving the Democrats a pass for not being able to get a consensus to override the Presidential veto.

    The Democrats don’t have a two-thirds majority in either house, ergo they could not override a Presidential veto even if they all voted as a bloc. The Republicans have enough votes to kill any override attempt.

  • trumpetbob15


    Yeah, they don’t have 2/3rds, but what about working together? When the Republicans were in control, every story in the news went along the lines “Today, Republicans decided not to work with their Democrat colleagues to pass …” That isn’t the case when the Democrats are in control. That is what I meant by Gallup giving the Democrats a pass, conviently forgetting to ask people if they approve of Democrats not working with Republicans.

  • Matt

    So: what shall we do about it?

    As long as we lock ourselves into the two-party mindset, we’ll keep looking at politics like a sporting event — with Democrats cheering on their “team” and Republicans cheering on theirs, and mindless groupthink loyalty counting for more than (say) policy. It’s not so much that we only have two major parties, but that we tend to pick a party first, then justify its policy.

    Here’s my radical thought: Given that both parties’s leaderships are dominated by the same sort of politician, let’s give both parties the finger and elect as many independents and small-party candidates as we possibly can. (Rather than be dogmatic about party issues, we should make exceptions for any major-party candidates whom we can trust to vote against the party line when the party line is bullshit.)

  • Joshua Holmes

    Congressional term limits is a radical idea? hahaha