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Congress Approval Remains in a Slump

Congress Approval Remains in a Slump

by Alyssa Davis

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- As Congress debates legislation on gun control, immigration reform, and the federal budget, it continues to get a vote of no confidence from the American people. Fifteen percent of Americans now approve of the way Congress is handling its job, essentially unchanged from 13% in March and 15% in February. Congress' disapproval rating is 79%.

Trend: Do you approve or disapprove of the way Congress is handling its job?

The current 15% reading, based on an April 4-7 Gallup survey, extends a long-term slump in Americans' ratings of Congress. Congress approval has exceeded 20% only twice in the past two years, and has not been above 25% since November 2009. This month's reading is five percentage points above the all-time low of 10% reached twice last year and is well below Congress' average approval rating of 33% since 1974.

Democrats Slightly More Likely Than Republicans to Approve of Congress

Democrats and independents are now slightly more likely than Republicans to approve of Congress. Democrats' rating edged up to 17% in April from 13% in March, similar to the increase to 16% from 11% among independents, while Republicans' rating slipped to 9% from 15% last month.

All three partisan groups' ratings of Congress have been similarly low since the legislative body came under divided control after the 2010 midterm elections, with the exception of a spike in Democrats' rating prior to the 2012 elections. Rank-and-file Democrats were more likely than Republicans and independents to approve of Congress from February 2009 until the Democrats lost control of the House of Representatives in the 2010 midterms.

Trend: Congress Approval, by Party ID

Bottom Line

Congress' approval remained low at 15% in April, and is still at the low end of the historical trend. Americans' low approval likely contributes to their overwhelming support for members of Congress to voluntarily return part of their salary as a result of sequestration.

Americans' views of Congress could improve if it passes legislation on gun control and immigration reform in the coming weeks, as aspects of both initiatives enjoy broad public support. However, economic issues such as the lack of growth in general, unemployment, and the federal debt are among the top issues Americans see vexing the country, while they mention gun control and immigration reform less often. Thus, a substantial boost in Congress' approval may ultimately depend on whether the overall economy improves and whether Congress passes legislation to help reduce the federal debt.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted April 4-7, 2013, with a random sample of 1,005 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 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 of national adults includes a minimum quota of 50% cellphone respondents and 50% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas 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 to correct for unequal selection probability, nonresponse, and double coverage of landline and cell users in the two sampling frames. They are also weighted to match the national demographics of gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, 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. Phone status targets are based on the July-December 2011 National Health Interview Survey. Population density targets are based on the 2010 census. 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.

View methodology, full question results, and trend data.

For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit

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