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The Importance of Congressís All-Time Low 10% Approval Rating
Principles & Policy ^

Posted on 08/15/2012 9:44:47 PM PDT by Sark

As we move closer to November, Congress definitely isn't growing any more popular. Gallup's latest nationwide poll reveals that just 10% of Americans actually approve of the job that the 112th Congress is doing. That's the lowest percentage in the history of Gallup polling on the subject. This is actually the second time Congress sunk that low just this year, as it also hit that mark in February.

No doubt, this new poll provides fresh ammunition for critics of the current Congress. While those critics range across the ideological and political spectrum, the loudest among them by far are Democrats. For whatever reason, the media has placed most of the blame for Congress's low approval ratings on tea partiers and House Republicans, while Senate Democrats remain largely unscathed.

With Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI) as Mitt Romney's new vice presidential nominee, leftists particularly want to tie the deeply unpopular Congress around the neck of the Romney campaign. Will it work? Only time will tell, but right now I want to consider the importance of these polling numbers.

First, we have to remember that Congress is almost never popular. Looking at the Gallup polling data from 1974 to the present, the highest approval rating was 84%. That rating came in October of 2001, and the previous rating was 42%. Obviously, the sudden doubling of Congress's approval rating resulted from a rally-'round-the-flag effect due to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Congress's approval rating typically hovered between 20% and 40%, except for a brief period from the late 1990s through the early 2000s in which the rating fluctuated between 40% and 60%.

The 112th Congress is obviously amongst the least popular since Gallup began its polling, but there are sensible explanations for that. First, the economy still isn't doing well. Unemployment stubbornly remains above 8%. The 111th Congress dealt with a similar economic situation, so what did its approval ratings look like?

They were a little bit better, but they certainly weren't great. By the end of their term, their approval rating sat at an abysmal 13%, which is well within the margin of error for the new Gallup poll on the current Congress. Let me remind you that Democrats held large majorities in both chambers during the 111th Congress. Furthermore, it's reasonable to assume that if economic problems drag on, approval ratings will continue to drop as people grow more and more frustrated.

Weak economic growth and high unemployment are obvious contributors to low approval ratings, but what about the divided control of Congress? I consider this an important cause for the poor ratings, but it's difficult to find empirical evidence to support this assertion for a few reasons.

Since the Gallup polling began in 1974, there have only been four terms featuring divided Congresses. Unfortunately, I believe that none of them provide a useful comparison to the current Congress. The 107th Congress (2001-2002) actually didn't even begin as a split Congress. Initially, Republicans held a majority in the House, and Vice President Dick Cheney could cast a tiebreaking 51st vote in the Senate, which was split 50/50.

However, the defection of Senator Jim Jeffords (R-VT) to the Democratic caucus gave control of that chamber to the Democrats, creating a split Congress. Furthermore, while there was a very brief recession in 2001, the aforementioned 9/11 terrorist attacks led to an enormous surge of support for Congress.

The 97th, 98th, and 99th Congresses (1981-1986) also had divided control. In all three terms, a Republican Senate majority battled with a Democratic House majority. Why don't I think that these three terms of Congress are helpful in examining the current Congress?

Two reasons. One, Gallup barely took any polls during those six years. In fact, they only took four. In about a year and a half, Gallup has taken nineteen polls of this Congress's approval ratings. To roughly extrapolate for six years of polling, that would be seventy-eight polls. So, it's difficult for me to trust a comparison using just four scattered polls.

Also, even if we were to take those four polls at face value, they were made in the context of a better economy. Yes, there was another short (and admittedly severe) recession during the 97th Congress, but its context doesn't match that of the 112th Congress. By the time that the 112th Congress took office, the United States had been mired in an economic crisis for years, and people were losing hope. The 1981-1982 recession began and ended during the 97th Congress.

More importantly, Americans had just made it through the economic difficulties and stagflation of the 1970s. Now, Americans are comparing their financial struggles to the tremendous economic growth they experienced, almost without fail, from the mid-1980s through the mid-to-late 2000s. It would make sense for present-day Americans to hold the economy's performance (and by extension, Congress) to a much higher standard.

Due to these reasons, I don't believe that the Gallup polling data on the other four divided Congresses is useful in examining the polling data on the 112th Congress. So, why do I think that the current divided control of Congress is a major cause for public dissatisfaction? Honestly, because it makes sense.

Think about it: When your political party is in control of both chambers of Congress, it can be a little uncomfortable to say that you don't approve of the job they're doing. You might do so anyway, but you'll be admitting that you made a mistake in previously supporting them. Most people are loathe to do that. So, when one party controls both chambers, there's a natural base of support for Congress which doesn't exist for a split Congress.

Still, during an economic boom, independents and members of the opposition party may acknowledge that the current Congress isn't doing such a bad job. For example, regardless of your party, most Americans would say that Congress and the economy were doing fine during much of the 1990s. In the midst of a recession and high unemployment, however, people aren't so forgiving. Looking for someone to blame, they'll focus on the people in power, especially if those people are in the other party.

This is exacerbated by a divided Congress. During a recession, most Americans want the government to do something. I don't necessarily agree with this tendency (particularly if the "something" is Keynesian in nature), but it's there nonetheless. With split control of Congress, it's exponentially more difficult for that Congress to appease Americans by doing something. So, a divided Congress has no natural base of support among the people, nor is it well-suited to respond to an economic crisis.

The 112th Congress clearly shouldn't be celebrating about their approval rating, but I will say that they're uniquely positioned to receive these low ratings. A terrible economic recovery, persistently high unemployment, and divided control of Congress are not a recipe for wild popularity.

With this new Gallup poll, the media and the left will try to pin the blame squarely on the Tea Party, House Republicans, Paul Ryan, and now Mitt Romney. They'll call Congress "dysfunctional and hyper-partisan," and they'll insist that this Congress is somehow worse than any other.

Don't buy it.

TOPICS: Government; History; Politics
KEYWORDS: houserepublicans; mittromney; paulryan; teaparty

1 posted on 08/15/2012 9:44:56 PM PDT by Sark
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To: Sark

This is going to be a good thread! Bookmarked.

2 posted on 08/15/2012 9:49:42 PM PDT by Graewoulf ((Traitor John Roberts' Obama"care" violates Sherman Anti-Trust Law, AND the U.S. Constitution.))
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To: Sark

Still need to vote for Republican representatives to assure a Republican majority in the House and defend our constitutional rights as much as possible.

3 posted on 08/15/2012 9:53:34 PM PDT by familyop ("Wanna cigarette? You're never too young to start." --Deacon, "Waterworld")
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To: Sark
When one small-minded ideologue in the Senate is allowed to control the successful flow and implementation of "the People's" business in both Houses, there is ample reason for such a low approval rating.
4 posted on 08/15/2012 9:56:15 PM PDT by loveliberty2
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To: Sark

” - - - while Senate Democrats remain largely unscathed.”

Hmmmmmmmmmmm. Don’t think that “Stonewall” Reid didn’t have some dirt on the writer of this article!

Must be me, because I did not see who this article was written by. Gotta get these glasses cleaned.

5 posted on 08/15/2012 9:59:27 PM PDT by Graewoulf ((Traitor John Roberts' Obama"care" violates Sherman Anti-Trust Law, AND the U.S. Constitution.))
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To: Graewoulf

Well, let’s see. I don’t particularly approve of Congress. Come to think of it, I definitely don’t approve of the White house, and I’m not too sure about the Supremes these days, either. Sad times we live in ...

6 posted on 08/15/2012 10:00:36 PM PDT by ArmyTeach (Our liberties, we prize and our rights we will maintain ... USS Iowa BB 61)
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To: Sark
Here's a little intel drop on a few congressional races for anybody that needs to get up to speed (like me:)

In Missouri, RCP has Todd Akin beating senator Claire McCaskill by 11 points too for net gain of 1 seat.

In Virginia, Rasmussen has democrat Tim Kaine, the Democrat picked to replace retiring Jim Webb, tied with Republican challenger George Allen, the Senator defeated by Webb in 2006. Seems like this is a good place for us to fight. It seems like we should bend over backwards to bring Virginia back into the fold actually.

In Wisconsin, in an August 5th poll, Tommy Thomson, who won the Republican nomination on August 14, 2012 after a bitter four-way primary battle is five points ahead of democrat Tammy Baldwin who is picked to replace retiring Senator Herb Kohl. Given these poll results and the 2010 surprise upset in Wisconsin when ultra liberal democrat, Russ Feingold was defeated by Ron Johnson, and the recent Gubernatorial recall election results, it seems like this would be a real real good place to fight for a senate seat-net gain 1.

No reliable polls for the Montana race since June. Given the manner in which Jon Tester won in 2006, it seems very plausible that Republican Denny Rehberg will reclaim this senate seat from the Democrats. Hard to say but I say probably net gain of 1.

In North Dakota, Republican, Rick Berg is statistically tied with Democrat Heidi Heitkamp who seeks to retain this Democratic senate seat being vacated by retiring senator Kent Conrad (D).

In Indiana, an August 1st poll has tea party candidate Richard Mourdock 2 points ahead of Democratic challenger, Joe Donnely in the Indiana senate race. Mourdock defeated Richard Lugar in the Indiana primaries, 400,321 votes to 261,285. Losing to Donnely will be bad - real bad.

In Massachusetts, 6 polls average out to a tie between Elizabeth Warren and Scott Brown who sent a shock wave through the democratic party when he took Ted Kennedy's Senate seat in a special election.

in Maine, the Republican seat held by retiring senator Olympia Snowe is now being fought over by Maine Secretary of State Charles Summers (R) and Maine State Senator, Cynthia Dill(D). Complicating this race is Maine Governor Angus King who is running as an Independent and currently polling well ahead of Summers and WAAAY ahead of Dill. The good news about this is that King was beating Summers by 28 points back in July but an August 6th poll of 500 likely voters in Maine by Moore Consulting has him beating summers by 18 points which is good but obviously not good enough. the same poll has Obama beating romney 52%-37%. king will likely caucus with demcocrats and create another Joe Lieberman situation. Maine is not looking so good. Anticipate the Dems picking up a seat in Maine.

Speaking of the Independent Joe Lieberman...Linda McMahon(R) is hoping to claim a seat for the Republicans by defeating Chris Murphy(D). A July 8th PPP poll has Murphy up by 8 points over McMahon. Murphy has soundly beaten in McMahon in every poll found at RCP between the two. Connecticut is going to the Dems. Because Lieberman caucused with the Dems, it isn't a net gain.

In Hawaii, Linda Lingle attempts to pick up a seat for the Republicans by defeating Democratic Mazie Hirono who is hoping to hold on to retiring Democrat, Daniel Akkaka's seat. Hirono is the clear favorite according to multiple polls and we should anticipate the Dems holding this seat for a net gain of zero.

In Florida, incumbent Democratic senator Bill Nelson is most recently looking good against Republican challenger, Connie Mack IV (R), although, RCP does have Mack up by o.2 points overall so this race looks very competitive.. We should, as usual, fight hard for Florida. It definitely looks to be within our grasp.

In Nebraska, the seat held by retiring democratic senator Ben Nelson is being fought over by Bob Kerre and Deb Fischer(R). Kerrey appears...highly accomplished and probably not some one to be underestimated. That being said, it looks like Nebraska is going to go to the Republicans this year for a net gain of 1.

In new Mexico, the seat held by retiring Democrat, Jeff Bingaman, is being fought over by Democrat Martin Heinrich and Republican Heather Wilson. RCP strongly suggests that The Democrats will hold New Mexico for a net gain of zero.

I've been at this for a while. If anybody has anything to add, it would be appreciated.

7 posted on 08/15/2012 10:04:16 PM PDT by RC one
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To: Sark
Gallup's latest nationwide poll reveals that just 10% of Americans actually approve of the job that the 112th Congress is doing. That's the lowest percentage in the history of Gallup polling on the subject. This is actually the second time Congress sunk that low just this year, as it also hit that mark in February.

So what? In November, the mind-numbed masses will dutifully head to the polls and re-elect ~95% of the same politicians responsible for the 10% approval rating. We are at a point today where most people are either complacent about politics ar believe that ythere is nothing they can do to make a real change.

Worse, even if we were to replace 75% of the people currently in Congress, all we are doing is swapping one set of crooks for another. The problem that everyone overlooks is that it ISN'T the PEOPLE . . . . . . . it's the system!! The Tea Party candidates we sent to Congress in 2010 complained that the e-GOP laid down the law and explained that either the Tea Party candidates play ball with the e-GOP or they would get no cooperation and no bills brought to the floor.

Therein, lies the problem. It isn't the people, the system is already rigged to screw the voters in favor of the politicians. Until we change BOTH the people AND the bureaucrats left behind who maintain the system, NOTHING will change - EXCEPT the faces.

IOW, we will treat a symptom, but the disease will continue merrily along unaffected!!

8 posted on 08/15/2012 10:24:35 PM PDT by DustyMoment (Congress - another name for white collar criminals!!)
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To: DustyMoment

I’m not sure that I agree we face a systematic problem. The system set up by the Founders was pretty great. For a man-made system, it was extremely well-thought out and contained few flaws, but that’s why they included an amendment system. I would say that to some degree, the problem is the people.

Most importantly, the people’s unwillingness to hold politicians accountable to the Constitution. Inevitably, the parchment barriers and checks and balances set up in the Constitution would eventually be overcome, and the people were meant to be the last line of defense for liberty. We haven’t done that. We need a revival of constitutionally limited government, but we don’t get that until a large majority of the American people truly demand it. I see the Tea Party as a huge, important step in that direction.

9 posted on 08/16/2012 6:50:23 AM PDT by Sark
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To: Sark
The system set up by the Founders was pretty great. For a man-made system, it was extremely well-thought out and contained few flaws, but that’s why they included an amendment system.

You misunderstand what I meant. What the Founding Fathers established IS great! However, that's no longer the system that operates in the Congress. Too many corrupt, cooked politicians have put their fingers all over the way the system functions internally in Washington such that it isn't even a shadow of what the Founding Fathers intended.

Quick case in point: Despite what they claim, most Congresscritters NEVER read any of the legislation they vote on. They rely on lobbyists and staff members to explain what is in a given bill. Another example - Back when Congress would raise their own pay in the middle of the night and tell you that they didn't vote for it, they were correct; they DIDN'T vote for it because they had established a corrupt system in which their raise would be attached to a bill. Everyone knew which bill it it was. And, Congress, to circumvent the issue of having to take action, created a sneaky system that ANY bill that sat on the docket for 72 hours with no action taken (e.g. floor vote or referred to committee) was considered automatically passed and sent to the POTUS for signature.

This is NOT what the Founding Fathers envisioned. It is a perverted, corrupt manipulation of the system and it is why we must have strict term limits for BOTH the elected politicians AND the bureaucrats who keep the system alive!! THAT's the system problem I'm talking about.

10 posted on 08/16/2012 8:17:54 AM PDT by DustyMoment (Congress - another name for white collar criminals!!)
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