Approval of Parties in Congress Near Record Lows

Approval of Parties in Congress Near Record Lows

Approval of Parties in Congress Near Record Lows

The FINANCIAL -- Americans think both parties in Congress are performing poorly. Just 20% approve of the job Republicans in Congress are doing, the lowest to date in Gallup's 18-year trend. Congressional Democrats' 31% approval rating is better than the GOP's, but also near the low point for the party.

Periodically since 1999, Gallup has asked Americans to assess the job the two major party congressional caucuses are doing. The prior low approval rating for Republicans in Congress, 23%, was recorded in the most recent update in September 2014, as well as in an April 2014 poll.

While congressional Republicans' current 20% reading is the lowest in Gallup's trend, it should be noted the question was not asked at two points when Americans' broader favorable rating of the Republican Party was significantly worse than it is now. These include October 2013 during the partial federal government shutdown and the 1998 impeachment proceedings against President Bill Clinton. It is possible that approval of Republicans in Congress was lower than 20% at those points in time.

As also seen in the two parties' broader favorable ratings, Americans rate Democrats better than Republicans for the way the party in Congress is doing its job. But congressional Democrats' current 31% job approval rating is just slightly better than its low mark of 28% from September 2011, a time of continuing high unemployment and shortly after President Barack Obama and Congress reached agreement on a deal to raise the federal debt limit after contentious negotiations.

Less Than Half of Republicans Approve of Congressional GOP

Americans' approval of the parties in Congress is influenced by their party identification, but Democrats are much more positive about the job their fellow Democrats in Congress are doing than Republicans are about the job the GOP is doing. Just 37% of Republicans approve of the job congressional Republicans are doing, compared with 57% approval for congressional Democrats among Democratic identifiers. Independents rate neither party in Congress well, but are more likely to approve of Democrats in Congress (25%) than of Republicans (16%).

Republicans likely find fault with their party for its inability to pass legislation to enact key elements of the party's agenda, even with the party now having majority control of both houses of Congress and the presidency. Most prominently, the GOP failed to repeal the Affordable Care Act, something it has pledged to do for the better part of the past decade. This poll was conducted just as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell declined to bring the latest Republican attempt at a repeal, the Graham-Cassidy healthcare bill, up for a vote because of lack of support among Republican senators. President Donald Trump has also publicly criticized congressional Republicans for their inaction.

Republican approval of the job congressional Republicans are doing has been below the majority level the last four times Gallup has asked the question, back to June 2013. Republicans have been the majority party in the House of Representatives since 2011 and in the Senate since 2015.

In contrast, Gallup has yet to find Democratic approval of the Democrats in Congress registering below the majority level. The lowest to date was 54% in December 2007. Democrats' approval peaked at 80% in February 2009, shortly after Obama took office and was working with large Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress.

Bottom Line

Americans' evaluations of the job the two major parties are doing in Congress are among the worst in the past two decades. These poor approval ratings are consistent with the public's generally negative views of Congress overall and its relatively low level of trust in the institution. While Democratic identifiers mostly remain supportive of the efforts of the Democratic caucus, the same cannot be said of Republican identifiers' views of the GOP.

A record-low percentage of Republicans express approval of the job their party is doing in Congress. Republicans have previously expressed frustration with their party leaders in Congress, perhaps playing a part in former Speaker John Boehner's resignation in 2015.

Current Speaker Paul Ryan and his Senate counterpart, McConnell, have struggled to win support for legislation in their own caucus, and from the other chamber, to advance Republican policy goals. Having a Republican president appears to have done little to help the party's efforts.

With future attempts at repealing the ACA uncertain, the GOP majority will turn its attention to other issues, most notably tax reform. If it is successful in achieving the core Republican goal of lowering taxes, it may win back favor from some of its supporters.