US Congress‘ approval rating goes down daily as politicians show their inability to deal with economic and political issues. Frank Newport, PhD, Gallup‘s Editor-in-Chief, said in an exclusive VOR interview that people have lost all confidence, as congressmen can’t prove that they earn their paycheques.
We saw your article from 10 December, which showed that Congress’ job approval dropped to an all-time low for 2013. Could you please give us the highlights of your study?
Yes. Congress’ approval rating in America went down recently, and, last year, which was 2013, across twelve months, it averaged 14 percent. That’s the average job approval rating for Congress during the year 2013… 14 percent… that’s the lowest yearly average that we’ve measured at Gallup in our history of measuring Congressional approval ratings. Therefore, clearly, it’s bad. Last year, in the October-November-December net range, we had the lowest single month rating for Congress as well, which was 9 percent. Therefore, basically, we had a year last year in which Americans in many ways lost confidence in their elected representatives in Congress.
Could you tell us how it changed with the years?
Congressional approval goes up and down, that’s why we keep measuring it, because some years are more positive than others are. However, it’s never been high. Over the years, approval rates for Congress average below 50 percent. Therefore, clearly, it isn’t something that’s extremely high. Americans always have a love-hate relationship with Congress. However, prior to the last couple of years, Congressional approval rates were also low back in 1979, when Jimmy Carter was President and there was a bad economy. Congressional approval was also low back in 1992, in the 18-19 percent range. Consequently, it’s been low before, and, then, it came back up again. In 2001-02, it was quite high, above 50 percent, I’d say. Then, it’s been coming down since then, and, as mentioned, last year, which was 2013, at average 14 percent, the lowest in our history.
Did you look at the reasons for the results of this particular year, in 2013?
Yes, we did ask people during 2013, “Why do you disapprove of Congress?” The number one reason Americans told us why they disapproved of Congress was that Congress didn’t get enough done, there was too much arguing, too much bickering, too much partisanship, trying to prove points and not working together to try to solve problems and pass legislation. Therefore, by far, these were the top reasons why Americans are down on Congress. Keep in mind that during 2013, there was a government shutdown for several weeks in October, which was a low point, when Congress couldn’t even decide how to pass a budget to keep the government working; I think that was the lowest single month of approval in our history. That’s what really fed up Americans… all this arguing in Washington DC and not working together.
Talking about other parties, do you think people disapprove equally of the work of both parties, or, is some party the winner?
Well, there are two ways of looking at that. Right now, Democrats and Republicans across the country are equally negative about Congress, so there isn’t much difference. When we flipped it around and asked Americans, “Please, rate the job the Democrats in Congress are doing, and, then, rate the job the Republicans in Congress are doing”, the Democrats come out higher. Therefore, neither party is doing well, but the Democratic Party is doing a little better than the Republican Party is in the estimate of the American people.
Do you think this is the bottom, or, is there still more room to fall?
Well, you can’t get too much lower, as zero is the lowest you can go; that would mean that no one approved of Congress. Therefore, the 9 percent that we recorded last November is low. We’ll see what happens this year. We do have our monthly rating for January, we just got it back from our survey, and it’s at 13 percent. Therefore, it doesn’t look too much better as this new year starts. We’ll have to watch it, and see month by month, to see if Congress is able to convince the American public to take a more positive view of them. Nevertheless, so far, it isn’t looking very positive as we began 2014.
When you published this study, did you get any reaction from people? What was people’s reaction, or, maybe, the official reaction?
Well, we reported that Congress had low job approval ratings for a while now, we report every month. Other surveys have done the same thing. Therefore, this isn’t a surprise for members of Congress. They sometimes make jokes about it; they know that people hold them in low regard. Of course, many members of Congress say it’s the “other guy’s” fault. The Republicans say, “It isn’t our fault, it’s the Democrats”. The Democrats say, “It isn’t our fault, it’s the Republicans”. Ergo, members of Congress don’t say that the numbers are wrong, they just say… “It isn’t our fault”. However, I think if you went to Washington DC and interviewed the 435 members of the House of Representatives and the 100 US Senators, they’d tell you that they aren’t surprised, they know that the American public doesn’t hold them in very high esteem.
11 January 2014
Voice of Russia World Service