The public's initial rating of the new Democratic majority in Congress is positive, but assessments on their handling of specific issues are generally lower and few think they have accomplished much in their first 100 days in power.
Overall, 54 percent in the new Washington Post-ABC News poll approved of the job Congressional Democrats in Congress have done. That is 15 points higher than approval of Republicans in Congress and 19 points higher than President Bush's approval rating, that remains mired in the mid-30s. (The president has not had majority approval since January 2005.)
The majority support for Congressional Democrats, however, masks lower ratings for the new majority party on key issues from the 2006 election. In this Post-ABC News poll, 46 percent approved of Congressional Democrats on the economy, 45 percent of their handling of ethics in government, 37 percent on Iraq and barely a third, 34 percent, on immigration issues.
President Bush's approval rating on immigration is as low Congressional Democrats', but on the other issues he does comparatively worse. Even on the U.S. campaign against terrorism, once the president's marquee issue, more Americans surveyed approved of how the Democrats in Congress are handling the issue, 51 percent, than rated Bush's performance positively, 44 percent, which is a career low for the president on this measure.
(For more on Bush vs. Congressional Democrats on the Iraq issue, see Final War Funding Bill in Works.)
Asked to consider Congress as a whole, 44 percent of Americans in this poll approved of the way it is doing its job. That is the best rating of Congress since April 2003. And 69 percent approved of how their own representative is handling his or her job, which is the highest it has been in Post-ABC polling since late 1998.
Looking back to the last time the House switched hands, this new majority has higher approval ratings than the Republican majority did after it swept into office following the 1994 elections. Three months after taking control of Congress, the Republican majority at that time had an overall approval rating of 45 percent. And then-Speaker Newt Gingrich registered 37 percent approval in April 1995, well below the public's current rating of Speaker Nancy Pelosi; 53 percent in this poll approved of her job performance.
However, the public is somewhat critical of how much the new Democratic majority has accomplished after three months. Only 26 percent think Congress has accomplished "a great deal" or "a good amount." At this time in 1995, 33 percent percent thought Gingrich's Republican majority had accomplished that much.
Full details on this poll can be found at: www.washingtonpost.com/polls.