- Lowest approval rating this year
- Two percentage points above all-time low
- Republicans are least likely to approve of Congress
PRINCETON, N.J. -- Americans' current 11% job approval rating of Congress is its worst rating so far this year. It is also barely better than the all-time low of 9% from November 2013, after the last major government shutdown.
The 86% of Americans who disapprove of Congress in the Nov. 4-8 poll ties the high disapproval figure in Gallup's 41-year trend, found in the November 2013 poll and two others.
Congress historically has not received high approval ratings, registering majority approval a small number of times during the economic boom of the late 1990s/early 2000s and after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. That includes a record-high 84% approval in October 2001. But ratings of Congress in recent years have been among the worst Gallup has recorded, rarely reaching 20% since 2011.
Gallup's latest congressional approval rating was obtained shortly after Congress passed bipartisan legislation to avert another government shutdown, and after Republican Rep. Paul Ryan took over as the new speaker of the House. That change in leadership did not have any immediate positive effect on how Americans view Congress.
The recent compromise fiscal legislation raised the limit the U.S. can legally borrow, and funds the government through 2017. But the deal was not universally hailed, with many Republicans in Congress upset with the party's leadership for not fighting hard enough for conservative fiscal principles. Former House Speaker John Boehner, who in late September announced his intention to resign his post, wanted to complete a deal before stepping down.
Boehner and Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have seen their support from fellow Republicans erode this year, not only among elected Republicans in Washington but also among party supporters nationwide. Gallup's most recent update, from October, found more Republicans having unfavorable than favorable opinions of Boehner and McConnell.
Republicans Least Approving of Congress Among Party Groups
Frustration with the party leadership may explain why Republicans (8%) are slightly less likely to approve of the job Congress is doing than either independents (13%) or Democrats (11%), even though Republicans have majority control of both houses. Usually, Congress' approval ratings are significantly higher among supporters of the majority party.
Republicans' more negative evaluation of Congress is a recent development. In the first poll Gallup conducted entirely after the GOP assumed control of the Senate earlier this year, Republicans (27%) were significantly more likely than Democrats (17%) and independents (18%) to approve of Congress, consistent with the historical pattern.
But in the spring and early summer months, Republicans' views began to sour, as the party made little progress in achieving its legislative goals. Those views got worse through the summer and early fall -- by July, only 11% of Republicans approved of Congress, and their approval since then has slipped further to 8%. Since July, Democrats' and independents' ratings have been consistently higher than Republicans', although Democrats and independents also view Congress quite negatively.
Some of the top Republican priorities at the start of this year included approving the Keystone XL pipeline, passing immigration reform, rolling back financial regulations and repealing major parts of President Barack Obama's healthcare law, none of which has been accomplished. More recently, rank-and-file Republicans' disappointment with their congressional leadership may have been reinforced by Congress' failure to block the nuclear deal the Obama administration helped negotiate with Iran and to strip Planned Parenthood of its federal funding.
The Republicans' odds of achieving any of those goals would have been long, given that Democrats can still successfully filibuster legislation in the Senate and Obama can wield his veto pen. But Republicans may be upset with the party leadership, and the GOP congressional majority more broadly, for not being more aggressive in moving their proposals forward and forcing Democrats to filibuster or use the veto.
A year ago, Republicans were celebrating key victories in the 2014 midterm elections that gave the party control of the Senate and increased their majority in the House. But a year later, rank-and-file Republicans find little to celebrate with Congress, as they give the institution lower approval ratings than Democrats and independents do. As a result, Americans' overall approval ratings of Congress are once again near record lows.
To put Republicans' unhappiness with Congress in perspective, their 8% approval rating of the GOP-led Congress is essentially the same as the 9% approval rating they gave the Democratic-led Congress at the time of the 2010 midterm elections.
Much of Republicans' ire appears directed at the party leadership. Boehner has stepped aside and Republicans have turned over the reins of House leadership to Ryan after a protracted search for a consensus speaker candidate. Gallup will report on Republicans' views of Ryan next week.
Although Ryan, like Boehner and Nancy Pelosi before him, will likely start off his speakership with much political goodwill, that has not had any immediate effect on the way Americans view Congress more generally. Even if Americans support Ryan initially, he will still be forced to navigate a divided federal government and a House Republican caucus that itself is divided. In a poll conducted after Boehner's resignation announcement, most Americans did not believe new leadership would lead to greater GOP success in Congress. But Republicans, particularly those aligned with the Tea Party movement, were more optimistic about the possibilities the change would bring.
Historical data are available in Gallup Analytics.
Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Nov. 4-8, 2015, with a random sample of 1,021 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. All reported margins of sampling error include computed design effects for weighting.
Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 60% cellphone respondents and 40% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods.
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