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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Just after President Obama finished his address to the DNC, Hillary Clinton walked out on stage to join him, so the better could share a few embraces, wave to the crowd—and let the cameras capture all the unity for posterity.
In a speech that began a bit like a State of the Union address, President Obama said the "country is stronger and more prosperous than it was" when he took office eight years ago. He then talked of battling Hillary Clinton for the nomination in 2008, and discovering her "unbelievable work ethic," before saying that no one—"not me, not Bill"—has ever been more qualified to be president. When his first mention of Donald Trump drew boos, he quickly admonished the crowd: "Don't boo. Vote." He then added that Trump is "not really a plans guy. Not really a facts guy, either."
Tim Kaine introduced himself to the nation tonight, devoting roughly the first half of his speech to his own story (peppered with a little of his fluent Spanish) before pivoting to Hillary Clinton—and her opponent. "Hillary Clinton has a passion for children and families," he said. "Donald Trump has a passion, too: himself." His most personal line came after noting that his son Nat just deployed with his Marine battalion. "I trust Hillary Clinton with our son's life," he said.
Michael Bloomberg said he wasn't appearing to endorse any party or agenda. He was merely there to support Hillary Clinton. "I don't believe that either party has a monopoly on good ideas or strong leadership," he said, before enumerating how he disagreed with both the GOP and his audience in Philadelphia. "Too many Republicans wrongly blame immigrants for our problems, and they stand in the way of action on climate change and gun violence," he said. "Meanwhile, many Democrats wrongly blame the private sector for our problems, and they stand in the way of action on education reform and deficit reduction." Calling Donald Trump a "dangerous demagogue," he said, "I'm a New Yorker, and a know a con when I see one."
Vice President Biden tonight called President Obama "one of the finest presidents we have ever had" before launching into a passionate defense of Hillary Clinton. "Everybody knows she's smart. Everybody knows she's tough. But I know what she's passionate about," he said. "There's only one person in this race who will help you. ... It's not just who she is; it's her life story." But he paused to train some fire on her opponent "That's not Donald Trump's story," he said. "His cynicism is unbounded. ... No major party nominee in the history of this country has ever known less."