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.
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There seems to be a clear consensus forming about Monday's debate: Hillary Clinton was the clear winner. One focus group of undecided Pennsylvania voters, conducted by GOP pollster Frank Luntz, found 16 favored Clinton while five picked Donald Trump. In a Florida focus group organized by CNN, 18 of 20 undecided voters saw Clinton as the winner.
As both candidates walked off the stage, Donald Trump lauded himself for being restrained and for not bringing up Bill Clinton. "I didn’t want to say—her husband was in the room along with her daughter, who I think is a very nice young lady—and I didn’t want to say what I was going to say about what’s been going on in their life," Trump said. Trump claims he stopped himself from hitting Bill Clinton because daughter Chelsea was in the room.
At the end of the debate, moderator Lester Holt asked Donald Trump if he stands by his statement that Hillary Clinton didn't have the look of a president. Trump responded by saying Holt misquoted him, instead saying that Clinton "doesn't have the stamina." Clinton responded by saying that when Trump visits 112 countries as secretary of state, he can talk to her about stamina.
Donald Trump, when pressed by Lester Holt on why he finally admitted that President Obama was born in America, repeated his widely debunked claim that it was started by Hillary Clinton.
Hillary Clinton went point by point on how race can so often determine the treatment that people receive, mentioning recent shootings in Tulsa and Charlotte, calling for restored trust between communities and police, and demanding criminal justice reform. Trump responded by calling for law and order and touting his endorsements from police unions. He then said that “African Americans are living in hell,” saying they are just walking down the street and getting “shot ... being decimated by crime."