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
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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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