WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Americans' approval of Congress is 13% in April, inching down from 15% in March, and currently standing only four percentage points higher than the all-time low of 9% in November 2013. Congress' job approval rating has ranged between 12% and 15% since December.
The latest reading comes from an April 3-6 Gallup poll. The survey was conducted as members of Congress prepare to take a two-week recess, possibly before the House of Representatives acts on a bill passed in the Senate to extend unemployment benefits.
This month's low job approval rating comes seven months before all House seats and three dozen Senate seats are up for re-election, which suggests the climate could be ripe with anti-incumbent sentiment. Congress' job approval ratings have never been below 20% at the time of a midterm election, but this scenario seems likely to happen in the fall unless something substantially improves Congress' image with Americans over the next few months.
Divided party control -- which is one reason Congress' ratings are so low -- makes it harder for voters to direct their frustrations at a specific party on Election Day. Another factor that could spare incumbents from major losses is that midterms generally play out as a referendum on the sitting president. So, it could be that President Barack Obama's job rating in the fall will be much more important than Congress'.
Congress' approval ratings have seldom broken the 20% mark since mid-2011. The institution's all-time low of 9% in November 2013 is still fresh, and there is little indication so far that approval ratings will markedly improve by Election Day.
Eleven states hold their primary elections next month -- with even more to come in June. The extent to which incumbency has become a liability may be most evident in races where an incumbent is fighting off a challenger within his or her own political party, and thus Obama won't be a factor. It is clear that voters, in one way or another, will have an opportunity to voice their frustrations with the job performance of the men and women they have elected to represent them this November.
Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted April 3-6, 2014, on the Gallup Daily tracking survey, with a random sample of 1,026 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, the margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.
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 time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone 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, and cellphone mostly). Demographic weighting targets are based on the most recent Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older U.S. population. Phone status targets are based on the most recent National Health Interview Survey. Population density targets are based on the most recent U.S. 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.
For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit www.gallup.com.