Approval rating for Congress hits a dismal low

When Congress calls it quits on legislative work this week so they can hurry home to campaign for re-election they will leave Washington with a dismal overall approval rating of 13 percent, according to Gallup polling.

Democrats approve of the work lawmakers have done this year by a slightly larger margin than Republicans 16 percent versus 10 percent, and Independents are in the middle with a 12 percent nod to congressional effectiveness.

One reason Congress’ ratings may be depressed is the split party control of the institution, with Republicans holding a majority in the House and Democrats having a majority in the Senate, and neither party able to accomplish much.

The gridlock has tied up major work projects like the Keystone pipeline, a rollback of sequestration that threatens extensive cuts at the Pentagon, and tax breaks.

The House passed most of the individual appropriation bills for multiple government agencies but the Senate refused to act. So the last business Congress will complete before leaving town on Friday is a $1.047 trillion omnibus spending bill to keep government operating.

In years past, congressional approval ratings this low leading up to Election Day have signaled a turnover in power. Following an approval rating of 18 percent in 1992, Republicans took control of the House for the first time in 40 years after 100 lawmakers were kicked out of office.

Less than 20 percent of Americans have approved of Congress each month since June 2011, including record-low ten percent readings in February and August, Gallup said.

Since 1974, the prior low ratings this late in an election year were recorded at 18 percent in 1992, 2008 and 2010.

“Congress has never had very high approval ratings at this point in an election year; only twice since 1974 were they over 50% — in 1998, during the economic boom, and in 2002, during the rally in support for public officials after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks,” Gallup said.

Come Nov. 6, all House seats are up for re-election along with one-third of the Senate. Democrats hold the Senate with 51 seats, Republicans control 47 and Independents claim two. Republicans have the majority in the House with 240 seats, Democrats control 190 seats.

The Gallup poll was conducted Sept. 6-9 with 1,017 respondents and a four percent margin of error. About 600 of the interviews were conducted on landlines, while 400 were conducted over cell phones.