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2014 U.S. Approval of Congress Remains Near All-Time Low

2014 U.S. Approval of Congress Remains Near All-Time Low

by Rebecca Riffkin

Story Highlights

  • In 2014, an average of 15% of Americans approved of Congress
  • Yearly approval averages have not exceeded 20% for five years
  • The same percentage (15%) of Republicans and Democrats approved

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Americans' job approval rating for Congress averaged 15% in 2014, close to the record-low yearly average of 14% found last year. The highest yearly average was measured in 2001, at 56%. Yearly averages haven't exceeded 20% in the past five years, as well as in six of the past seven years.

Congress' Job Approval Ratings, Yearly Averages

Congress' approval rating has averaged less than 20% each year since 2010. In 2009, President Barack Obama's first year in office in which he governed with a large Democratic majority in Congress, an average of 30% approved. Prior to 2008, Congress' job approval over the 40-year history of Gallup's measure had been below 20% only twice before, in 1979 and 1992.

After peaking in 2001 at 56%, a high figure that reflected the rally in support for government institutions after the 9/11 terror attacks, Americans' approval of Congress has generally been dropping each year, with the exception of the spike in 2009.

Similar Approval Rates Among Americans of All Political Affiliations

This past year, Congress' approval ratings averaged 15% among both Republicans and Democrats, while averaging 14% among independents. These lower approval ratings among those identifying with both major parties are partly attributable to the divided control of Congress in 2014. Control has been divided since 2011, and neither party's supporters have averaged above 20% approval of Congress.

In the past, including in 2009 and 2010 under unified Democratic control of Congress, and for most of 1995 through 2006 under unified Republican control, the majority party's supporters had a much more favorable opinion of the job Congress was doing.

Congress' Job Approval Ratings, Yearly Averages by Party

Congress Approval Averaged 16% in December

Gallup's most current monthly rating of Congress, from a Dec. 8-11 poll, shows 16% of Americans approving of Congress. That is little changed from November, but remains down from a slightly higher 20% reading just before this year's midterm elections. That is the only time Congress' monthly approval rating has reached the 20% mark over the last two years. Approval fell to an all-time monthly low of 9% in November 2013 after the partial government shutdown.

Congress' Monthly Job Approval Ratings in 2013 and 2014

Bottom Line

Over the past four years, Congress' approval ratings have been among the lowest Gallup has measured. Part of this may be attributed to the divided control of Congress, with neither party controlling both the House and Senate -- thus leaving both Republicans and Democrats with divided sentiments when asked to rate Congress as a whole. However, in January, when newly elected Republican senators are sworn in and Republicans begin controlling both houses of Congress, approval may increase as Americans who identify as Republicans become more positive. This has happened in the past, with Republican approval of Congress surging in 1995 and Democratic approval increasing in 2007.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Dec. 8-11, 2014, on the Gallup U.S. Daily survey, with a random sample of 805 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.

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.

Learn more about how the Gallup U.S. Daily works.

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