An unpopular Congress is breaking its own records when it comes to dismal approval ratings.
Only 10 percent of those surveyed by Gallup approve of Congress’s job performance, according to results released Wednesday.
That’s a percentage point worse than the 11 percent this Congress registered in Gallup’s poll released in mid-December, when lawmakers were bickering over whether to extend a payroll tax cut to millions of voters.
The all-time low is a full 3 percentage points lower than the 13 percent approval rating Congress scored in Gallup’s January survey, which was taken after the payroll tax cut was approved. Perhaps that put voters in a better mood.
It doesn’t matter who is surveyed. Republicans, Democrats and independents all dislike Congress.
Democrats give Congress an 11 percent approval rating, while Republicans gave a 12 percent approval rating. Independents are in a fouler mood. They give Congress an 8 percent approval rating.
That’s bad news for members of the House, all 435 of whom face reelection in November. Thirty-three senators will also face a dissatisfied electorate.
Congress has historically received low marks from voters.
Since Gallup released its first approval rating poll for Congress in 1974, when the body debuted with a 30 percent approval rating, it’s spent a majority of the time in negative territory.
But it’s never been in this much of a downward spiral.
Even when Congress was accused of shutting down the government, its approval rating was more than three times higher than what it is now registering.
Congress scored a 30 percent approval rating before the government shutdown of November 1995, when then-Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) was battling President Clinton. Congress’s approval rating stood at 35 percent in January 1996.
Lawmakers can now only dream of such numbers.
Congress’s approval rating averaged 17 percent in 2011, peaking at 24 percent in May — and it has been slowly declining since. The approval ratings are so low a newcomer to the United States would probably find it hard to believe that Congress was ever popular.
But it was.
In October 2001, in a survey taken just a month after the Sept. 11 attacks, Congress won its highest approval rating in history from Gallup. A full 84 percent of those surveyed said they approved of Congress, double the 42 percent Gallup had registered on Sept. 10, 2001.
Congress has only seen back-to-back months of gains in the poll once since then. That came in early 2009, shortly after the financial industry collapsed, the credit markets seized up and President Obama entered office.
Congress’s approval rating jumped from 19 percent in January to 31 percent in February and 39 percent in March.
While there were few major developments for Congress this January that might have contributed to the month-over-month decline, the approval rating has been on a protracted downward slide since the bitter debt-ceiling battle last summer.
The Gallup poll suggests the public is exhausted by the seemingly endless gridlock in Congress.
Republicans and Democrats in the House are presently fighting over how to pay for the extension of the payroll tax cut, which temporarily ignited a Republican revolt just days before Christmas but was ultimately extended for two months to give the sides time to negotiate on a longer deal. On Tuesday, Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.) said both sides need to cool it with the heated rhetoric and let the House-Senate tax committee do its job by the Feb. 29 deadline.
There is one person in Washington who will be happy with Gallup’s polling.
Ever since the debt-ceiling fight, President Obama has made a point of attacking Congress.
He ripped lawmakers during a summer bus tour, and he criticized them in his State of the Union address in January.
In doing so, he’s seen his own approval ratings sneak up, which suggests the attacks are paying off.
Gallup’s poll gives Obama a 47 percent approval rating, down more than 20 points from when he entered office. Still, the president’s approval rating has been inching upward since it bottomed out at 38 percent last August.
Congress has not seen that high a rating in years.
— Posted at 3:03 p.m. and updated at 8:19 p.m.