Congress’s Job-Approval Rating Reaches New Low, Gallup Says

The public’s contempt for the U.S. Congress continues to grow.

The Gallup Poll’s latest gauge of public sentiment for the job Congress is doing sank to a record low, with 10 percent of Americans registering approval. That’s down from 13 percent in January and a previous low of 11 percent in December.

Of those surveyed, 86 percent disapproved of the job Congress is doing. That ties with a record disapproval rating set in December.

The approval rating was lower even though there have been modest improvements in the public’s mood toward President Barack Obama and the state of the economy, said Frank Newport, editor in chief of the Gallup Poll.

“This is not a case of a lowering tide lowering all boats,” Newport said in an interview. Other measures are improving and “the Congress boat is sinking,” he said.

The poll found similar results among those from different political parties, with 11 percent of Democrats and 12 percent of Republicans indicating approval of Congress. Among independents, 8 percent approved. Republicans control the House and Democrats control the Senate.

In a survey released yesterday, Gallup found that Americans’ confidence in the economy improved for the fifth month in a row in January. Obama’s approval rating edged up to 50 percent in the survey, after dipping to 40 percent late last year.

Partisan Gridlock

Today’s nationwide poll of 1,029 adults was conducted Feb. 2-5, two weeks after Obama outlined his policy objectives for the next fiscal year in his State of the Union address, and also after the House and Senate returned to work in Washington.

The average approval rating for Congress in 2011 was 17 percent, Gallup said. The research organization’s record-high approval rating for Congress was 84 percent in October 2001, a month after the terrorist attacks.

Amid partisan gridlock between the House and Senate, records of low productivity in Congress also are being set. Last year, 80 laws were completed, the lowest number since the Congressional Record began keeping an annual tally in 1947.

That’s well short of the previous record low of 88 laws in 1995, which was also a year when Republican House majority countered a Democratic president’s agenda with one of its own.

Newport said it doesn’t appear that any single event caused the lower approval numbers. Last year, approval ratings dropped after Standard & Poor’s cut the nation’s credit rating on Aug. 5 because on grounds Congress didn’t do enough to curb the deficit.

This time, “it just seems to be a cumulative effect,” Newport said.

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