PRINCETON, NJ -- Americans give Congress a 14% job approval rating as the new year begins, the lowest since September of last year and down from 18% in November and December. The disapproval rating for Congress is 81%.
These results are based on a Jan. 7-10 Gallup poll, conducted about a week after Congress and the president agreed on legislation that avoided the end-of-year "fiscal cliff," in part by pushing the deadline for mandated federal budget sequestrations to March 1.
A Gallup poll earlier this month showed that Americans had a split reaction to the fiscal cliff agreement. But the same poll also showed that Americans gave low ratings to the way congressional leaders handled the negotiations, providing some explanation for the low rating of Congress in the current poll.
Additionally, three-quarters of Americans believe the "way politics works in Washington" is harmful to the United States, suggesting that Americans in general are very down on "business as usual" in the nation's capital.
The lowest individual congressional job approval rating in Gallup's history is 10%, measured in August of last year. The highest is 84%, measured in October 2001 after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Last year's 15% yearly average was the lowest in Gallup's 38-year history of asking the question -- and 2013 thus appears to be a continuation of 2012's historically negative attitudes toward Congress. Overall, Americans have been significantly more likely to disapprove than approve of Congress over the decades. The average congressional approval rating since Gallup began measuring it in 1974 is 33%.
Approval of Congress Drops Among Both Republicans and Democrats
Republicans' approval of the job Congress is doing dropped to 6% in January, from 14% in December. This eight-percentage-point decline fits with the finding that rank-and-file Republicans had the most negative reactions to the fiscal cliff agreement reached at the end of the year. But Democrats' approval of Congress dropped by a similar degree -- six points, to 15% from 21%. Independents' approval rating was more constant at 17%, compared to 19% in December.
Americans continue to rate their elected representatives very poorly, with 14% approving and more than eight in 10 disapproving of how these men and women in Washington are doing their job. This low rating is not a new phenomenon; the current 14% congressional job approval rating is on par with the all-time-low 15% annual job approval rating for 2012.
A new Congress has now been sworn in, and immediately faces challenges relating to the economy, the debt ceiling, government spending, entitlement and tax code reform, and pressure to enact legislation on gun control and immigration, among other things. In the broadest sense, one bit of good news for the new Congress is that its current job approval ratings are so low that they have practically nowhere to go but up.
Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Jan. 7-10, 2013, with a random sample of 1,011 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.
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 and cellular phones, with interviews conducted in Spanish for respondents who are primarily Spanish-speaking. Each sample includes a minimum quota of 500 cellphone respondents and 500 landline respondents per 1,000 national adults, with additional minimum quotas among landline respondents by region. Landline telephone numbers are chosen at random among listed telephone numbers. Cellphone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods. 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, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, adults in the household, population density, and phone status (cellphone only/landline only/both, cellphone mostly, and having an unlisted landline number). Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2012 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older U.S.population. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting.
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 https://www.gallup.com/.