Public opinion of Congress has hit a record low, according to a new New York Times/CBS News poll.
Only nine percent of national adults polled said they approve of the way Congress is handling its job. Eighty-four percent disapprove of the job Congress is doing while seven percent said they weren’t sure. The poll surveyed 1,650 adults from Oct. 19-24 and had a margin of error of three percentage points.
The nine percent figure – the lowest ever recorded in the history of NYT/CBS polling — is down from the 11 percent of respondents who said they approved of the job Congress was doing in the previous Times/CBS News poll, conducted in late September and early October.
But even more striking is the 15-percentage-point drop in the congressional approval rating since the start of the 112th Congress; twenty-four percent of respondents approved of the job Congress was doing in mid-February, the first poll taken since Republicans re-captured the House in January.
The drop in Congress’ approval comes even as both chambers came together earlier this month in a moment of rare bipartisan accord to approve three long-pending trade deals with South Korea, Panama and Colombia, a move that supporters of the free trade agreements say will lead to the creation of hundreds of thousands of jobs.
Aside from the trade deals, however, there have been few areas during the 112th Congress on which the Democratic-held Senate and the Republican-led House have been able to reach bipartisan compromise.
Among the bipartisan measures that have cleared both chambers have been several stopgap measures to avoid a shutdown of the federal government and of the Federal Aviation Administration; August’s deal to raise the debt ceiling in exchange for sweeping cuts to federal spending; a patent reform bill; and May’s four-year extension of key Patriot Act provisions.
What the poll results mean for Senate and House control in the 2012 election is difficult to gauge. As The Fix’s Chris Cillizza has noted, voter ire is directed at the institution of Congress as a whole rather than at one political party, and in a July Post poll, nearly two-thirds of registered voters said they were inclined to “look around” for someone other than their current member of Congress in 2012.
What is clear is that the public’s dismal view of Congress spans both political parties, a point further backed up by the results of the new Times/CBS News poll: as CBS’ Lucy Madison notes, 83 percent of Republicans, 83 percent of Democrats and 85 percent of independents surveyed in the new poll said they disapproved of the job Congress is doing.
When it comes to the battle over jobs, neither the White House nor congressional Republicans fare well in the new poll: 38 percent of respondents said they believed President Obama has a clear plan for creating jobs, while only 20 percent said the same of congressional Republicans.
The news is somewhat worse for Republican leaders, however; the 20 percent figure represents a 10-point drop from the 30 percent of respondents last November who said the GOP had a clear jobs plan. Obama’s 38 percent figure is unchanged from November.