Congressional Job Approval Ties Historic Low of 13%

Americans’ evaluation of the job Congress is doing is the worst Gallup has ever measured, with 13 per cent approving, tying the all-time low measured in December 2010.

Disapproval of Congress is at 84 per cent, a percentage point higher than last December’s previous high rating.

The following results are based on an Aug. 11-14 Gallup poll, which includes the first update on Congress’ job approval rating since the government reached agreement on a deal to raise the debt ceiling after contentious and protracted negotiations between President Obama and congressional leaders.

Standard & Poor’s subsequently downgraded the United States’ credit rating, in part citing the current political environment in Washington.

That sparked a week of intense volatility in the stock market, with days of sharp losses and large gains.


Frustration with Congress was evident immediately after the debt ceiling agreement, with a record-low 21% of registered voters in an Aug. 4-7 USA Today/Gallup poll saying most members of Congress deserve re-election.

President Obama’s job approval rating has also declined in recent days, reaching a low of 39% in Aug. 11-13 Gallup Daily tracking.

When Gallup last measured Congress’ job approval rating in early July, 18 per cent approved and 77 per cent disapproved. That poll came while the debt ceiling discussions were underway but well before the talks dragged on to just before the Treasury Department’s Aug. 2 deadline.

Congress’ Ratings Go From Bad to Worse

Gallup has measured Americans’ approval rating of Congress since 1974. Americans have not rated Congress very positively over this time, with an average approval rating of 34 per cent.

Americans have in recent years become increasingly less charitable in their ratings of Congress, with average approval ratings of 19 per cent in 2008, 2010, and 2011 to date. These ratings have come despite considerable turnover in the membership of Congress following the 2006, 2008, and 2010 elections.

In 2009, Congress averaged 30 per cent approval coinciding with the election of a new presidential administration and with the Democrats in full control of Congress.

Independents are currently the most critical of Congress, with 9 per cent approving and 86 per cent disapproving. Republicans and Democrats give Congress slightly higher, but still overwhelmingly negative, marks.


Independents’ current 9 per cent approval rating of Congress is the lowest Gallup has measured for that group. The prior low was 13 per cent on several occasions, most recently in December 2010.


Americans have usually not held Congress in high regard, but currently they have a more negative view of the institution than any other time Gallup has measured. Although Congress agreed to raise the debt ceiling, the issue is far from settled, as a special committee of 12 House and Senate members will work toward an agreement to make significant cuts in federal spending over the next few months to avoid mandatory cuts in defence and entitlement programs.

Though the results of that committee’s work are not likely to dramatically transform the way Americans view Congress, they could determine whether the institution’s ratings remain in this new lower range or show some improvement.

If Congress’ ratings do not improve much before the November 2012 elections, its membership could be in line for another shake-up.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Aug. 11-14, 2011, with a random sample of 1,008 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95 per cent confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points.

This post originally appeared on the Gallup Management Journal.