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Congressional Job Approval Highest in Nearly 12 Years

Congressional Job Approval Highest in Nearly 12 Years

Story Highlights

  • 35% of U.S. adults approve of the job Congress is doing
  • Democrats largely responsible for the latest increase
  • Last time Congress' rating was higher was early in Obama administration

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Thirty-five percent of Americans currently approve of the way Congress is handling its job, a 10-percentage-point increase since January and the highest Gallup has measured in nearly 12 years.

Line graph. Congressional job approval recent trend. The current job approval rating of 35% is up from 25% in January and 15% in December. Congress' approval rating was last higher in February 2009. It has rarely been at 30% or above since 2008. The low was 9% in November 2013.

The current results are from a Feb. 3-18 Gallup poll. Americans have generally given Congress relatively low ratings historically, with an average 30% job approval rating since Gallup first measured it in 1974. Since 2005, Congress' ratings have rarely met the historical norm, averaging 21%.

Congress did register ratings of 30% or higher twice last spring, after passage of the $2 trillion CARES Act addressed the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Congress' approval rating also rose significantly after lawmakers passed a second major COVID-19 relief bill in late December, improving from 15% approval earlier that month to 25% in January. The Biden administration and Congress have made additional COVID relief a top priority.

The latest survey was conducted as the Senate tried former President Donald Trump on an impeachment charge. Though a majority of senators found Trump guilty of inciting the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, the 57 votes for conviction fell short of the 67 needed to render that judgment. More Americans thought Trump should be convicted than acquitted.

While COVID-19 legislation and impeachment could be two factors behind the rise in congressional job approval, it may be more fundamentally related to the change in the Washington power structure. After Joe Biden's inauguration as president and the seating of two Democratic senators from Georgia in late January, the Democratic Party now has the presidency and majority control in both houses of Congress.

Currently, 61% of Democrats approve of the job Congress is doing, along with 33% of independents and 8% of Republicans.

Democrats' approval of Congress has surged 31 points in the past month and a total of 50 points since December. Independents' approval has increased by a total of 17 points in the past two months, including an eight-point increase this month. After holding steady in January, Republicans' approval of Congress dipped nine points in the past month.

Line graph. Congressional job approval by party. Sixty one percent of Democrats approve of the job Congress is doing, up from 30% in January and 11% in December. Thirty three percent of independents approve of the job Congress is doing, up from 25% in January and 16% in December. Eight percent of Republicans approve of Congress, down from 17% in January and 18% in December.

The last time Congress' approval rating was as high as it is now was early in the Barack Obama administration, when Democrats also had control of the presidency and both houses of Congress. At that time, Democrats' approval went from 18% in January to 43% in February and 57% in March, eventually peaking at 63% in May.

Gallup observed a similar dynamic after Trump was inaugurated in 2017 and Republicans held both houses of Congress. Republicans' approval of Congress more than doubled from 20% in January to 50% in February, a level of GOP support for the legislative branch not seen since. That Republican surge pushed overall congressional approval to 28%, its high-water mark between October 2009 and March 2020.

In 2001, congressional job approval changed little after George W. Bush was inaugurated and the GOP gained control of the presidency and both houses of Congress, moving from 50% in January to 53% in February. Republicans' approval of Congress was already high before Bush was inaugurated -- 55% -- but increased to 69%. Independents' approval was unchanged at 49% after Bush took office, while Democrats' approval declined slightly, from 48% to 44%.

Bottom Line

Congress is enjoying its highest level of public support in more than a decade, largely because Democrats appear pleased with its ability to carry out a Democratic agenda. But independents are also more approving of Congress than they typically are, while Republican approval has fallen to levels similar to that of Democrats when the GOP controlled the federal government in 2017 and 2018.

As Gallup continues to track congressional job approval in the coming months, the key will be whether approval goes even higher, as it did in the first few months of the Obama administration, or if it has already reached its peak, as it did in February 2017 during the Trump administration. Its future course may be determined by how successfully coronavirus legislation addresses the issues caused by the pandemic, and by Congress' ability to work with the Biden administration to enact other parts of their agendas.

View complete question responses and trends (PDF download).

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