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Congress' Job Approval Rating Improves, but Still Low

Congress' Job Approval Rating Improves, but Still Low

PRINCETON, NJ -- Americans' approval of the job Congress is doing remains low, at 23%, but has improved since Congress passed healthcare reform legislation.

Recent Approval Trend: Do You Approve or Disapprove of the Way Congress Is Handling Its Job?

The 16% approval rating in March was just two points above the all-time-low 14% approval recorded in July 2008. Even with the significant jump this month, the 23% reading from the new April 8-11 Gallup poll remains well below Congress' 34% historical average approval rating.

In the past month, approval ratings of Congress among self-identified Democrats have surged from 24% to 41%. Independents' ratings also increased, from 13% to 20%. Meanwhile, Republicans' ratings fell significantly, from 14% to 7%.

The changes in ratings by Republicans and Democrats are consistent with the notion that the healthcare legislation has affected the way many Americans view Congress, given the increase in ratings among Democrats, who largely supported the legislation, and the decline among Republicans, who were largely opposed. The 7% approval rating for Congress among Republicans is the lowest Gallup has measured for any party group since it began tracking congressional approval by party in the early 1990s.

Approval Ratings of Congress, by Political Party Affiliation: % Approve, Recent Trend

Separately, a March 26-28 USA Today/Gallup poll, conducted the week after healthcare reform passed, asked Americans to rate the job each party in Congress is doing. Thirty-seven percent said they approved of the job the Democrats in Congress are doing, and 33% approved of congressional Republicans' performance.

Higher ratings for each party in Congress (37% and 33%) than for Congress overall (23%) are typical, since Americans generally rate their preferred party's congressional caucus quite positively. The poll finds 65% of Republicans approving of the job the Republicans in Congress are doing and 75% of Democrats approving of the job the Democrats in Congress are doing.

The data suggest that Republicans' overall ratings of Congress are based largely on their feelings toward the Democratic majority -- given Republicans' 7% approval rating for Congress overall and 5% for the Democrats in Congress.

On the other hand, Democrats' ratings of Congress may take into account both their party's majority status but also some frustration with the Republican minority, as their ratings for Congress overall (41%) are much lower than for the Democrats in Congress (75%).

Comparisons of Overall Ratings of Congress and Ratings of Each Party in Congress, by Respondent Party Affiliation

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,020 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted April 8-11, 2010, and 1,033 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted March 26-28, 2010. For results based on these total 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 landline telephones (for respondents with a landline 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.

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