Congress has had an approval rating hovering in the teens for several years now. That’s not new. But as Washington stumbles into the second week of the shutdown, concern for a dysfunctional government has reached record levels.
Since 2008, the economy and jobs have been the top priorities for the American people — a statistic commonly cited by lawmakers when they’re trying to push for legislation. But now, according to a new Gallup Poll, government dysfunction is the most important problem facing the United States. At 33 percent, this is the highest percentage since the poll was started in 1939.
Other priorities for Americans sit well below this mark, including the economy (19 percent), unemployment (12 percent), the deficit (12 percent), and health care (12 percent).
And this level of concern for the dysfunction in Washington is substantially higher than it was during the last government shutdown in 1996. When Gallup polled Americans then, just 17 percent listed Washington’s problems as the top issue for them. The budget and deficit were still the top issue, at 28 percent.
But will this concern last?
Last month, Syria captured peak interest at 8 percent, but now has fallen back down to 1 percent as the threat of U.S. military action has faded. But this concern for the government could last for several months. In September, 16 percent of Americans thought the dysfunction was the top issue. Now that number doubled. Additionally, approval for Congress is just 1 percentage point higher than record lows.
Americans have lost confidence in their political leaders. With the debt-ceiling deadline just days away, and a possible default imminent, the concern for Washington’s dysfunction could rise — along with deeper concerns for the economic consequences of lawmakers’ inaction.