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CONGRESS

Public Doubts Washington Can Get Things Done

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Bye-bye: Capitol empties for recess.(Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images)

Now that the debt crisis has been resolved—at least for a while—how is Congress doing in the eyes of the American people? What does survey research suggest about the public’s mood heading into the fall when lawmakers will once again have to vote on massive spending cuts?

Fortunately, the new United Technologies/National Journal Congressional Connection Poll offers some clues to the public mood. The survey, which was taken in the days leading up to the final deal, revealed a deep lack of faith among the public in Congress’s ability to get things done. When it comes to important problems facing the country, only 7 percent of respondents said they have a lot of confidence that Washington could make progress over the next year. Thirty-five percent expressed some confidence, but 35 percent expressed “not much confidence,” and 23 percent said they have “no confidence at all.”

 

The United Technologies/National Journal Congressional Connection Poll was conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International on July 28-31 and surveyed 1,001 adults. The poll has a 3.6-point error margin for the full sample (the margin is larger for sample subgroups). The poll is the latest in a series of national surveys tracking the Americans’ priorities for Congress—and their assessment of Washington’s performance—during most weeks that Congress is in session through 2012.

A closer look at the numbers suggests that different segments of the population will be watching this fall’s action on Capitol Hill in different ways. For instance, while respondents overall said that President Obama has behaved more responsibly than Republicans on the debt-ceiling question, the all-important segment of independent voters also went with Obama—and by a large margin. Fully 45 percent of independents said that Obama behaved more responsibly and only 29 percent of independents said the Republicans did.

When the responses are broken down by gender, it is pretty clear that women and men see Washington differently. While only 39 percent of men said they trusted the Democrats to do a better job coping with the main problems the nation faces over the next few years, 46 percent of women sided with the Democrats. Non-Hispanic white voters of both genders were split evenly, with 36 percent favoring each party. Black non-Hispanics favored the Democrats over the Republicans by 73 percent to 14 percent.

 

On the question of confidence that the government will make progress on the most important issues facing the country, GOP respondents were generally more skeptical. Forty percent of Republicans said they don’t have much confidence and 26 percent said they have no confidence at all. Democrats were a bit more sanguine: 33 percent said they don’t have much confidence and 11 percent said they have no confidence.

All said, the poll presents a portrait of a country entirely uneasy with Washington, even as Congress and the president signed off on a bipartisan plan to cut spending. Judging from the United Technologies/National Journal Congressional Connection Poll, the people’s skepticism seems so entrenched that it’s unlikely to fade by the time Congress returns in September.

This article appears in the August 3, 2011 edition of NJ Daily.

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