The Times West Virginian

September 22, 2013

Approval rating of Congress up to about 20 percent

Times West Virginian

— At the end of July, 12 percent of Americans approved of the job Congress was doing. What’s worse was that 57 percent of those polled said they would replace every single member of Congress if they could.

I guess that’s where some of the late-night jokes come from:

“President Obama wants Congress to increase the minimum wage. Believe me, when it comes to doing the minimum for their wage, Congress knows what it’s talking about.” – Jay Leno

“President Obama gave his State of the Union speech and went through a laundry list of things, most of them very centrist — like he said he wanted universal preschool. He said he got the idea from trying to work with the Republicans in Congress the last few years.” – Bill Maher

“According to a new poll, Congress is now less popular than head lice, Nickelback and Donald Trump. In a related story, head lice is insulted that it’s being lumped in with Donald Trump and Nickelback.” – Conan O’Brien

“I’m not saying this Congress is bad at its job. I’m just saying that this Congress is equivalent to a skunk with its head in a jar of Skippy peanut butter.” – Jon Stewart

Well, who is laughing now, huh? Congressional approval ratings have soared ... to about 20 percent. Yes, that means that one out of every five people surveyed say they approve of the job Congress is doing.


Pundits say that Congress stood up against President Barack Obama on a proposed military strike on Syria, which was aligned with how the American people felt about that issue. That apparently caused the bump in approval.

Obama apparently did Congress a favor by waffling on that decision, announcing that he’d take it to Congress and then backing off. It’s the first time the legislative and executive branch have worked together since 2008. 2014 ought to be interesting.

Or maybe not. While polls suggest a disdain for Congress, it’s for the body as a whole and not the individual members.

“When we look at approval of a person’s own representative, polls show 30 percent or higher approval than that of the Congress as a whole,” blogger Harry J. Enten writes for The Guardian. “Democrats generally like their Democratic Congress member, and Republicans the same for their own. Republicans and Democrats may not even like their own caucus, yet still will vote for their own congressman. It’s why re-election rates for Congress members are so high.”

But still, 20 percent is a far cry from the historical average over the last 40 years.

“Congress’ approval rating remains low, and well below the historical average of 33 percent since Gallup began asking the question in 1974,” the statement from the most recent Gallup poll reads. “However, given that Congress’ ratings have been almost exclusively below 20 percent the last three years, its current 19 percent approval rating seems positive by comparison.”

So we thought we would take the question to our pollsters, the ones who log on each week to each week to vote on the latest topics and trends. Last week we asked, “Congress has seen a slight bump of approval since resisting military action in Syria. How do you feel Congress has been doing lately?”

• Improving. Maybe it took threat of war, but the body is coming together on key issues — 10.34 percent.

• Pretty good. Members seem to be moving toward representing their constituents instead of just their party — 16.08 percent.

• Poorly. Ask me again when sequestration is resolved — 73.56 percent.

Heck, 26 percent is stunning compared to the national poll. And speaking of Congress, let’s talk this week about the House’s efforts to either defund or delay health care legislation from taking effect. What are your thoughts?

Log on. Vote. Email me or respond online.

Misty Poe

Managing Editor