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Behind the Numbers
Posted at 03:04 PM ET, 03/11/2009

Congressional Approval: Democrats on Democrats

Congress has gained higher approval ratings from Democrats, with positive ratings increasing at a faster rate than when the Democrats took control of both chambers of the legislative body just over two years ago. But can Democratic control of both the White House and Congress help sustain the momentum this time around?

According to newly released data from Gallup, overall approval of Congress stands at 39 percent, with most of the positive reviews coming from Democrats. In their early March poll, 57 percent of Democrats approved of the way Congress is handling its job, compared with 34 percent of independents and 22 percent of Republicans. Two months ago, just before President Obama took office, ratings were far lower and the partisan divide was slimmer, with 18 percent of Democrats, 17 percent of independents and 23 percent of Republicans giving a positive assessment.

Compare that to the first months of the 110th Congress in 2007. With Democrats in control of both chambers for the first time since 1995, approval among their co-partisans rose 10 points to 55 percent, among independents, it held about even at 40 percent, and among Republicans, it dipped nine points to 33 percent, according to Washington Post-ABC News polling. But after the 100-day honeymoon, as the difficulty of enacting policies with a nearly even split in the Senate and a Republican in the White House became apparent, the Democratic majority lost its grip on its rank-and-file. Approval ratings among Democrats declined sharply over the year, bottoming out at 28 percent in November.

This year, Democrats' majority in the Senate is far larger, and with a Democratic president, there is less risk that the man at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue will veto their legislation.

Among liberal Democrats, a group whose satisfaction with the new administration and Congress has been the subject of debate, congressional approval during the last session topped out at 59 percent, and fell as low as 22 percent. Gallup's polling finds them nearly matching that high, with 58 percent approval as of early March, up 30 points since January.

Congressional approval among Democrats has not reached 57 percent in Post-ABC polls since February 2002. While the overall approval rating of 39 percent is a four-year high in Gallup's polling, Post-ABC polls have found congressional approval at higher levels as recently as April 2007.

Congressional approval:

                  2007         2009
               Jan.  Apr.   Jan.  Mar.
Overall         43    44     19    39

Democrats       45    55     18    57
Independents    42    40     17    34
Republicans     42    33     23    22

Lib. Democrats  51    59     28    58

By Jennifer Agiesta  |  03:04 PM ET, 03/11/2009

Categories:  Polls, Polls, Polls

 
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