WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Americans express slightly greater approval of Congress this month after last month's decline. The current 26% rating is up from 21% in October but down from 31% in August and September. Still, more than two-thirds of Americans (68%) disapprove of the way Congress is handling its job.
"Congress' job approval rating now precisely matches the 26% recorded in November 2006, just before control of Congress shifted from Republicans to Democrats, and is not too dissimilar from the 23% recorded in October 1994, just before control shifted from Democrats to Republicans."
The results are from a Gallup poll conducted Nov. 5-8, as the U.S. House of Representatives labored through the weekend on healthcare reform, ultimately passing a $1 trillion bill intended to expand coverage to millions more Americans. The same survey found Americans still divided on the potential benefits of healthcare reform and more likely to oppose such a bill than to favor it.
This month's improvement in congressional approval is bipartisan, with approval among Democrats climbing from 36% to 47% and among Republicans edging up from 9% to 17%. Independents, however, buck that trend: moving from 16% to 14%, the percentage approving is the lowest it has been all year.
While Democrats remain nearly three times more likely than Republicans to approve of Congress, it is worth noting that general trends among the two groups have moved in tandem since mid-August.
The new 2009 low in approval from independents comes at a time when a majority of registered independents say they would likely vote Republican rather than Democratic, 52% to 30%, if elections for Congress were held today. With Republicans and Democrats exhibiting the same degree of loyalty to their parties' candidates, independents' preference for Republicans gives that party a 48% to 44% edge over Democrats among registered voters overall.
Approval of Congress is one of several key indicators to watch leading up to the 2010 midterm elections, with lower approval ratings generally relating to greater turnover in seats from one party to the other. Congress' job approval rating now precisely matches the 26% recorded in November 2006, just before control of Congress shifted from Republicans to Democrats, and is not too dissimilar from the 23% recorded in October 1994, just before control shifted from Democrats to Republicans. It is also well below its 36% average of the past two decades.
Despite giving Congress slightly higher marks than they did last month, Americans remain less approving of Congress than they were this summer and most of this year. The percentage of independents approving is now even lower than the percentage of Republicans approving, and less than half of Democrats approve of the Congress their party controls. Approval of Congress now matches the level Gallup found just before control of Congress changed hands in 2006, and is close to the level found before control changed hands in 1994. This will remain a key measure to watch over the next year as Democrats seek to maintain power while Republicans work to seize it.
Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,008 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Nov. 5-8, 2009. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points.
Interviews are conducted with respondents on land-line telephones (for respondents with a land-line telephone) and cellular phones (for respondents who are cell-phone only).
In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.