Opinion: Job approval of Congress jumps sharply as Republicans take over the House: Gallup

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With so much national attention focused on the keen criminology insights of Arizona’s Clarence the Talking Sheriff, a stunning new Gallup Poll on Congress almost flew right by.

The new national survey finds that within only five days of Republicans taking majority control of the House of Representatives on Jan. 4, Americans’ approval of the bicameral body’s job shot up more than 50%, from its record low of 13% to 20%.


The spurt in support came despite the candidly ominous opening speech by the new Speaker John Boehner, ‘Our debt will soon eclipse the size of our entire economy.’

The job approval of Congress has been trending downward for much of the past two years under the large Democratic majorities in both houses and the leaderships of now ex-Speaker Nancy Pelosi and barely surviving Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who lost six of his 10-seat margin in the Nov. 2 midterms.

In December, when so much of the media coverage portrayed the lame-duck Democratic Congress and President Obama as being incredibly productive, popular job approval of that institution plummeted to an historic low 13%.

Gallup noted that decline in approval was particularly apparent among Democrats, many of whom were, according to their party’s political protocol, hoping for higher taxes on all Americans.

Using harsh political rhetoric, Obama called hard-bargaining Republican congressional leaders ‘hostage-takers’ for striking a tough legislative deal with him that avoided January....

...increases in withholding taxes, among other things. As one result, his approval improved to slightly closer to 50% and the Republicans’ approval soared. Perhaps there’s some kind of political lesson to draw from that. Not surprisingly, in the latest Gallup data, approval of the new 112th Congress improved significantly among Republicans, from a mere 7% up to 22%. But here’s an intriguing point: Among Democrats, approval of the new half-Republican Congress also jumped, from 16% all the way up to 24%.

Meanwhile, another poll finds that 42% of Americans view the Republicans’ congressional agenda as ‘mainstream,’ while fully 49% call the Democrats’ congressional agenda ‘extreme.’ How could that be after increasing the national debt only $54,000 every second?


Of course, Gallup’s finding of approval by only one out of five Americans is still pretty pathetic. Back in 2002 when GOP President George W. Bush became only the second president to increase his party’s congressional membership and control in a first midterm election, fully 55% of Americans approved of the job performance by the Republican Congress.

Democrats took control of both houses in 2007 in the 110th Congress; their job approval that session averaged 23%. In the ensuing 111th Congress, also under Pelosi and Reid, approval averaged 25%.

If the latest approval improvement continued at its impressive new-year rate, Congress would match Obama’s 48-49% job approval by March and be inching up on the 58% approval that Bush enjoyed on his 723d day in office. All that, of course, is silly to even contemplate.

-- Andrew Malcolm

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