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Congress' Job Approval 19% at Start of New Session

Congress' Job Approval 19% at Start of New Session

by Riley Brands
Chart: data points are described in article

Story Highlights

  • Congress' job approval at low end of long-term trend
  • Both Republicans and Democrats largely disapprove

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The 115th U.S. Congress begins its term with a 19% job approval rating, similar to the level measured for the institution in recent years and in line with the 18% to 20% ratings it received in the final months of 2016.

Graph 1

The latest rating, based on a Jan. 4-8 Gallup poll, comes as the new Congress was sworn in on Jan. 3 and congressional Republicans attempted to make a rule change that would have weakened the watchdog Office of Congressional Ethics. They later scrapped the plan, and the incident did not affect Americans' views of Congress.

The current 19% congressional approval is at the low end of the historical spectrum, which has ranged from a low of 9% in November 2013 after a federal government shutdown to 84% approval in October 2001 after 9/11. Congress' overall approval rating has been below 25% since 2010.

Democrats, Republicans Register Low Approval Ratings

Although Republicans control both chambers of Congress and are about to control the White House, the party faithful are no more likely than Democrats to approve of the institution, at 20% and 19%, respectively. Independents have a similar view of Congress, with 17% approving of how it is handling its job. This pattern of similarly low party ratings of Congress has generally held for about the last year.

Holding both chambers of Congress typically boosts approval ratings among members of the majority party. Democrats' excitement about President Barack Obama's inauguration and control of Congress drove overall congressional approval up to 31% in February 2009. Similarly, approval increased after George W. Bush's inauguration in 2001, when Republicans held both chambers for part of that year.

With a unified government for the GOP on the horizon again, Donald Trump's inauguration could buoy Republicans' ratings of Congress.

Graph 2

Bottom Line

President-elect Trump and a Republican-controlled Congress have an ambitious legislative agenda, leading with a plan to undo Obama's signature domestic achievement, the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. While a majority of Americans agree the law needs to be changed or repealed, they do not agree with the way Congress is doing its job more generally. This suggests there is no reservoir of goodwill for Congress to fall back on as it attempts to enact its agenda in the coming months.

Historical data are available in Gallup Analytics.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Jan. 4-8, 2017, with a random sample of 1,032 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 70% cellphone respondents and 30% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods.

View survey methodology, complete question responses and trends.

Learn more about how the Gallup Poll Social Series works.

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