Hey Congress: How Low Can Your Approval Rating Go?

The body’s approval rating is at 13 percent to start the year. Let’s see where those numbers wind up.

National Journal
Matt Vasilogambros
Jan. 14, 2014, 9:40 a.m.

Here’s a fun game: What will the ap­prov­al level of Con­gress look like this year?

Amer­ic­ans don’t like Con­gress. That’s noth­ing new. But in re­cent years, polling for the le­gis­lat­ive body has been at his­tor­ic lows. What will this week’s rat­ings look like? Single di­gits? Teens? Twen­ties?!

So, Gal­lup re­leased its first read­ing of Con­gress’ job ap­prov­al of 2014 on Tues­day. As of Jan. 8, when this poll con­cluded, 13 per­cent of Amer­ic­ans ap­prove of the jobs those sen­at­ors and rep­res­ent­at­ives are do­ing. This is un­changed from Decem­ber and up from the all-time low of 9 per­cent. Nine per­cent! That’s only 7 per­cent more than the num­ber of Amer­ic­ans who looked at a pic­ture of NBC’s Bri­an Wil­li­ams and thought it was Joe Biden.

Con­gress is cur­rently de­bat­ing giv­ing un­em­ploy­ment in­sur­ance for people out of work for over 26 weeks. It’s un­clear wheth­er this widely pop­u­lar policy will pass, however. The ex­ten­sion’s fail­ure could lower mem­bers’ rat­ing. But it’s at least as likely to re­main the same, con­sid­er­ing the apathy Amer­ic­ans feel to­ward their elec­ted of­fi­cials.

Or Con­gress could have a come-to-_____ mo­ment, pass com­pre­hens­ive im­mig­ra­tion re­form, in­crease the min­im­um wage, pass a farm bill, put new lim­its on sur­veil­lance, add a bi­par­tis­an jobs plan, and get to long-needed tax re­form — all in an elec­tion year. The people would re­joice at this new sense of com­prom­ise and seem­ing ma­tur­ity from the adults in Wash­ing­ton. We could see num­bers like from 2009 where Con­gress’ ap­prov­al rat­ing was at 39 per­cent.

But likely, it won’t. In fact, many of these ac­tions could an­ger more people, and the ap­prov­al rat­ing could go down.

Let’s get real­ist­ic for a mo­ment, however. The House will only be in ses­sion for around 90 days un­til Novem­ber’s midterm elec­tions. Yes, Con­gress will prob­ably do less this year than it did in 2013. And last year, they didn’t do much.

So, where will the ap­prov­al rat­ing for Con­gress go this year? Let’s wait and see.

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Hillary Clinton hopes that television ratings for the candidates' acceptance speeches at their respective conventions aren't foreshadowing of similar results at the polls in November. Preliminary results from the networks and cable channels show that 34.9 million people tuned in for Donald Trump's acceptance speech while 33.3 million watched Clinton accept the Democratic nomination. However, it is still possible that the numbers are closer than these ratings suggest: the numbers don't include ratings from PBS or CSPAN, which tend to attract more Democratic viewers.

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