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Posted at 2:19 PM ET, 12/15/2010

Congress' record unpopularity

By Felicia Sonmez

Screen shot 2010-12-15 at 1.06.45 PM.png

A record low 13 percent of Americans approve of the job Congress is doing, the lowest rating in Gallup Poll history and an indication that Americans remain largely dissatisfied with lawmakers even after the GOP's sweeping wins in last month's midterm election.

The latest Gallup Poll, which was released this morning, shows Congress' approval rating at the lowest ebb since July 2008, when only 14 percent of Americans approved of the job the legislative branch was doing.

Support for Congress has dropped among Democrats, Republicans and independents alike. Sixteen percent of Democrats, 13 percent of independents and 7 percent of Republicans(!) now approve of the job Congress is doing. That's down from 38 percent, 16 percent and 9 percent, respectively, in October.

The survey comes amid a flurry of legislative activity in recent weeks -- and amid some striking bipartisanship -- as Congress hustles to pass several key priorities during the lame-duck session. On Monday, a tax-cut package negotiated between President Obama and congressional Republicans passed a test vote with sweeping bipartisan support.

The measure, the first ever to be co-sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), passed by an 81-19 margin this afternoon and may be taken up by the House as early as this evening.

But while Congress has had a busy few weeks, some of the actions it's taken haven't reflected the desire for change that voters expressed in November.

Weeks after an election in which voters decried federal spending and the earmarking process, the Senate is now considering a massive omnibus spending bill that contains more than 6,000 earmarks worth a total of $8 billion.

Despite their party's sweeping losses, the House Democratic leadership team is remaining largely intact, a move that has caused consternation among some moderate members of the caucus. And with the ranks of suburban Democrats and members of the conservative Blue Dog coalition whittled down as a result of the midterms, the partisanship that voters have decried in polling looks only to be further reinforced in the 112th Congress.

While the Gallup poll shows Americans more dissatisfied with Congress than ever before, a new Washington Post-ABC News survey shows that Americans are conflicted over the results of the midterms.

Forty-one percent of those polled said that the GOP's takeover of the House is a "good thing," while 27 percent said it's a "bad thing" and 30 percent say it won't matter either way. Forty-three percent of those polled said that Obama is taking the stronger leadership role in Washington recently, while 42 percent said the same of congressional Republicans.

The fact is that distrust of institutions -- Congress especially -- has risen rapidly in recent years. And, with large majorities of Americans expressing discontent with the direction the country is headed, it's no surprise that Congress isn't faring very well.

The message for lawmakers? The public remains restive and Republicans' triumph this fall could easily turn around in two years time if nothing changes.

By Felicia Sonmez  | December 15, 2010; 2:19 PM ET
Categories:  House, Senate  
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Next: Afternoon Fix: Senate passes tax cut bill; more presidential debates set for New Hampshire and South Carolina; Coleman won't back Steele

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