If anyone has doubted just how incredibly unpopular the U.S. Congress has become—and if you have, try to pay closer attention—Tuesday’s Gallup poll provided some bracing clarity: Congress has a 9 percent approval rating. That’s the lowest it’s been since Kool and the Gang’s Jungle Boogie was tearing up the pop charts and Richard Nixon was in the final days of the Watergate scandal (with an approval rating higher than 9 percent).
That’s not really so surprising. The shocker is the Quinnipiac University poll released the same day. Again, the headline number—President Obama’s approval rating fell to 39 percent, its lowest ever—is newsworthy, but not out of line with what one might expect. The surprise comes further down. On every issue cited by Quinnipiac’s pollsters, respondents said they trusted congressional Republicans to do a better job than Obama. They preferred the GOP on health care (43 percent to 42 percent), the economy (45 percent to 41 percent), the federal budget (45 percent to 40 percent), and immigration (41 percent to 40 percent).
Clearly, the failed rollout of the president’s health-care plan is causing the public to lose faith in him. But let’s remember that congressional Republicans forced the government to shut down, and that it was still shut less than a month ago. Yet today, Americans have more confidence in Republicans’ ability to govern than they do in Obama’s. This is plainly a lesser-of-two-evils situation. But it’s pretty remarkable nonetheless: Republicans haven’t just survived the shutdown, they’ve prospered—at least relative to Obama.