Stockbrokers receive higher public-approval marks than the U.S. Congress. So do telemarketers, health maintenance organizations and banks.
Approval of Congress’s performance fell to 10 percent in August, tying a record low set in February, according to a Gallup poll released Aug. 14.
A separate pair of Gallup surveys from June and December show that the public views a range of institutions and professions more favorably than Congress and its members.
Only 6 percent of respondents in the June survey said they had “a great deal” of confidence in Congress, while almost one-half, 47 percent, said they had “very little.” That’s less confidence than the public places in big business, banks, HMOs and newspapers, according to Gallup.
Former Representative Mike Castle, a Delaware Republican, said in a telephone interview that the high level of scrutiny to which lawmakers are subjected contributes to the public’s unfavorable views.
When a member of Congress is involved in a personal or criminal scandal, “that becomes page one headline news,” Castle said yesterday. “When a person of another profession may do the same type of thing, it’s probably a lesser story.”
In his current job as a registered lobbyist with DLA Piper, Castle is part of a profession that the public rates low in terms of honesty and ethical standards, according to Gallup.
Gallup, which has approached the institutional popularity question in different ways over time, has consistently found Congress at the bottom.
Members of Congress, lobbyists and car salesman tied for last place in a Nov. 28-Dec. 1 Gallup poll in which 7 percent of respondents assessed the honesty and ethical standards of people in the three jobs as “high” or “very high.”
Stockbrokers, telemarketers, lawyers, journalists and funeral directors scored higher.
“Part of it is just the character of the news about Congress,” said John Pitney, a political scientist and professor at Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, California. “If a member of Congress is totally upstanding and a good family person and is scrupulous about finances, that doesn’t make news.”
The most recent survey, released Aug. 14, found that 83 percent of Americans disapprove of the way Congress is doing its job, the latest in a string of poor marks that the legislative branch has received. The 10 percent approval rating, down from 16 percent in July and 17 percent in June, ties the lowest ranking registered for Congress since Gallup began measuring congressional approval 38 years ago.
The largest decline in approval was among Democrats polled. Nine percent approved of the institution’s performance in August, down from 18 percent in July.
The survey found equal disdain for Congress across political groups, with 10 percent of Republicans and 11 percent of independents saying they approved. The Aug. 9-12 telephone poll of 1,012 adults has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.
Congress’s approval rating, which reached a record high of 84 percent in October 2001 after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, hasn’t exceeded 20 percent in Gallup’s monthly survey since May 2011.
As of yesterday, Congress had sent 79 bills to President Barack Obama for his signature this year. Many of them name post offices or convey land parcels, and most of the rest extend previously approved programs.
This year’s slow pace of legislating is reminiscent of last year’s, when lawmakers sent to Obama 90 bills that eventually became law. The 2011 output barely topped that of 1995, when 88 bills were signed into law, fewer than at any time since the Congressional Record started keeping track in 1947.