Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Congressional approval ratings jump from 19 percent to 31 percent

This is from Gallup.com:

PRINCETON, NJ -- Gallup's latest congressional job approval rating, from a Feb. 9-12 poll, shows a sharp 12 percentage-point increase from last month, rising from 19% to 31%. While still quite negative on an absolute basis, this is the best rating for Congress in nearly two years.

Congress' approval ratings have been below 30% pretty consistently since October 2005. There have been a few exceptions to this, with ratings as high as 37% in early 2007 after the Democrats took party control of Congress after their victories in the November 2006 midterm elections, but those quickly disappeared. More recently, approval ratings of Congress had been about 20% or lower, including an all-time low rating of 14% in July 2008.

Congressional job approval ratings from 2006 to 2009. From Gallup.

This month's sharp increase largely reflects a more positive Democratic review of Congress. Since the previous measure from early January, Barack Obama has been inaugurated as president, and now Democrats have party control of both the legislative and the executive branches of the federal government.

I'm thinking that Congress' abysmal poll ratings were due to the perception that they were a rubber-stamp for the Bush administration. Back in October, 2005, the Republicans held control of Congress and pretty much rammed down their own ideology, and conservative legislation, down the country's throat. Of course, in 2005, the scandals were coming out against the Bush administration on the intelligence failures on Iraq, Valerie Plame, domestic spying, and torture. The GOP leadership refused to allow any serious congressional investigations into the Bush administration's connection with these scandals. The 109th Congress, at that time, was considered the "Do-Nothing" Congress. Even when the Democrats took control of the 110th Congress, after the 2006 midterm elections, they could not pass much legislation with a closely divided Senate, and both a threatening GOP filibuster in the Senate and a President Bush veto. The 37 percent uptick in 2007 was a positive result due to the Democrats' retaking control of Congress. But the Democratic leadership still could not effectively legislate.

Flash forward to today. We've got a Democrat in the White House, under President Barack Obama, and the Democrats in charge of Congress. With the economic stimulus bill having passed in Congress, and President Obama signing the bill, it is not surprising that the congressional approval ratings have shot up by 12 points. And even though the poll was taken on February 9-12, the American people have been watching the political events taking place during this debate on the stimulus bill, and how the Obama administration has been moving this bill through Congress, attempting to provide bipartisanship with Republican congressmen. And so far, the American people have been approving of both President Obama, and Congress.

But congressional approval only goes so far. The big losers are, again, the Republicans:

Democrats' average approval ratings of Congress more than doubled from January (18%) to February (43%). Independents show a smaller increase, from 17% to 29%, while Republicans are now less likely to approve of Congress than they were in January.

Congressional approval ratings for January and February, 2009, by political party. From Gallup.

Job approval ratings for the Republican Party dropped 4 percentage points between January and February of this year, from 23 percent in January to 19 percent in February. Contrast that to the 25 point percentage increase by the Democrats, between January and February, of this year. You can blame this 4 percent drop in the Republican's job approval ratings due to the GOP's incessant opposition and obstruction against the economic stimulus bill. Even as President Obama attempted to reach out for bipartisanship on the stimulus bill, not a single Republican House member voted for the stimulus bill, and only three Republican senators voted for the bill. This stimulus bill comes at a time when the U.S. is struggling through a severe economic recession, with Americans worried about the employment picture, the financial crisis, the housing crisis, and the plummeting 401K retirement funds. And with the Republicans opposing the stimulus bill at a time when the U.S. is facing such severe economic problems, it is no wonder that the GOP's approval ratings are sinking. It is a high-risk strategy that the GOP is playing, hoping that the worsening economic conditions will turn the American public against the Democrats and President Obama, sending the Republicans back into power in the 2010 and 2012 elections--for both Congress and the White House.

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