Congress’s job-approval rating fell to a 39-year low as a result of the budget standoff that closed the federal government for 16 days, underscoring the hurdle lawmakers face in next year’s re-election races.
The 9 percent approval in a Nov. 7-10 survey eclipsed the previous low of 10 percent, registered twice last year, according to a Gallup poll released yesterday.
“Incumbents have to watch everything in this political environment,” said Guy Harrison, a former executive director of the National Republican Congressional Committee. “You’re in an environment where if you get a cut, it can turn septic very quickly.”
Senate Democrats and House Republicans are trying to protect their narrow majorities next year, while quelling intra-party turmoil. Several Senate Democrats seeking re-election in states that President Barack Obama lost in 2012 are pushing for revisions to his signature Affordable Care Act. Business interests, such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the limited-government Tea Party movement are battling for the future of the Republican Party in several primary races.
The public dissatisfaction has clipped Obama, too. A poll from Quinnipiac University released yesterday shows U.S. voters disapproved of his performance, 54 percent to 39 percent.
Obama’s slide in the poll follows the troubled rollout of his health-care law and the president’s apology over some individuals seeing their insurance plans canceled after he had promised they could keep them.
Voters in every income and age group disapproved of Obama’s job, as did men, women and Hispanics. Obama, the nation’s first black president, maintained a positive approval rating among black voters, according to the Quinnipiac poll.
The Quinnipiac poll included telephone interviews with 2,545 registered voters nationwide from Nov. 6-11. It has a margin of error of 1.9 percentage points.
Flaws with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, may also be hurting Congress. Approval of Congress was 11 percent in October during the partial government shutdown, according to Gallup. Confidence then slipped as lawmakers and the administration reached a deal to end the stalemate, and attention shifted to health care.
“I’m surprised it’s 9 percent,” said Senator Barbara Boxer, a California Democrat, suggesting support should be lower. “I guess that’s our family or something.”
The poll showed 9 percent of Republicans, 8 percent of independents and 10 percent of Democrats approved of Congress’s job.
“Spot on,” Senator Jeff Flake, an Arizona Republican, said in an interview at the Capitol. “I don’t know how they’d have any other opinion given the mess that’s going on. We have to do better.”
In the Senate, Republicans are seeking to pick up six seats in congressional elections next year to regain the majority, which they lost in 2006. House Democrats are trying to capture the majority they lost in 2010. Republicans have 231 members in the House, compared with 200 for Democrats.
The Gallup poll included telephone interviews with 1,039 adults. It has a margin of error of 4 percentage points.