PRINCETON, NJ -- Despite the 111th Congress' passage of a lengthy list of legislation, including a massive healthcare bill, 37% of Americans say it has accomplished less this year than in the past few years, and a smaller 23% say it has accomplished more.
This question is particularly relevant this year because the current Democratically controlled Congress has passed a series of high-profile legislative bills, including the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, and others. Nevertheless, the large majority of Americans do not perceive that what Congress has accomplished is more than it has done in previous years.
These results may partly reflect the antipathy Americans have toward Congress in general, and may also reflect the weak approval for the content of these bills. Gallup research shows that the majority of Americans approve of only one of five specific "major pieces of legislation" Congress has recently passed: increased government regulation of banks and major financial institutions.
Americans' perceptions of what Congress has accomplished may also provide support for President Obama's and other Democratic leaders' contention that Americans are not familiar enough with what Congress has done, and thus are not giving Democrats the credit they deserve.
Although current assessments of Congress' accomplishments are not positive in an absolute sense, they are more positive than responses to the same question in October 1994. Democrats were in control of Congress at that time, as they are now, but lost control to the Republicans in the November 1994 elections. At the same time, when this question was first asked in December 1993, in a poll conducted by CNN/Time, Americans were more upbeat, with only 16% saying Congress had done less than in previous years.
Democratic leaders in Washington have touted recent legislation as evidence of their legislative success, while some in the Republican Party and in the Tea Party movement have condemned these same acts as steering the country in the wrong direction. Americans of neither party, however, are highly likely to perceive that the 111th Congress has accomplished more than usual.
Slightly fewer than 4 out of 10 Democrats say Congress has accomplished more this year than in previous years, compared with 15% of both Republicans and independents. A majority of Republicans say Congress has done less than in previous years.
The fact that well under half of Democrats say Congress has accomplished more than usual may be related to the finding that Democrats to this point have shown lower levels of enthusiasm or involvement in the election than have Republicans.
Explore more Gallup data relating to the upcoming congressional midterm elections, including Gallup's complete generic ballot trend since 1950, in our Election 2010 Key Indicators interactive.
Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Oct. 21-24, 2010, with a random sample of 1,021 adults, aged 18 and older, living in the continental U.S., selected using random-digit-dial sampling.
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 landline telephones (for respondents with a landline telephone) and cellular phones (for respondents who are cell phone-only). Each sample includes a minimum quota of 150 cell phone-only respondents and 850 landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas among landline respondents for gender within region. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.
Samples are weighted by gender, age, race, education, region, and phone lines. Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2009 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older non-institutionalized population living in continental U.S. telephone households. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting and sample design.
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.
For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit http://www.gallup.com/.