And here’s the kicker: Many of them said they don’t even like Congress all that much.
“I think [lawmakers] really struggle, but I think they probably do as good a job as they can. And I guess that’s probably an approval,” said Stan Cameron, 72, of Billiard, Ohio, a retired cattleman who counts himself among the 14 percent.
Only 3 percent of those who approve of Congress said they do so strongly.
And it is a further sign of the public’s low esteem for the institution that even its biggest fans think not a whole lot is getting done there. Unease about that inertia suggests that Congress will enter an election year facing an unsettled and unpredictable electorate that is little pleased with either party.
More than a dozen interviews this week suggest that the genus Congress Approver is largely made up of two species: those who don’t mind Washington at a stalemate and those who haven’t really noticed it.
The first group is composed of conservatives who embrace the gridlock as a sign that the new Republican majority is standing up to a Democratic president they think is on the wrong track.
“It’s easy to say [lawmakers] should compromise,” said Sherran Whatley, 73, who lives in Washington state. “But if you do that, you’re not standing for what you believe in. When it comes to politics, and when it comes to a time when we’re in such dire straits, there are lines to be drawn.”
Those who applaud the Republican-controlled House say its members are following through on their promises to cut government spending, even if it means a fight. They are frustrated that polls don’t show more of their fellow Americans, who elected the new majority only a year ago, embracing the results.
They also blame what they consider hostile media for driving the narrative of the unpopular Congress.
“Congress is supposed to be a mess and all screwed up in times of transition, when you have one party in control of one chamber and the other in control of the other. It’s supposed to be a brawl,” said Eric Briggs, 40, a financial adviser from West Richland, Wash., who cheered the GOP’s fighting spirit. “But people just don’t want to hear fighting. They just want everyone to get along and for it to be happy and work out.”
In the second group of Congress Approvers are glass-half-full types who cheerfully acknowledge that they don’t follow politics closely and don’t want to pass judgment on what they don’t know.
“I’m not really up on Congress. I have no qualms with them,” said Roxanne Kidwell, 58.
Kidwell lost her job at a Cincinnati grocery store in 2007 and spends most of her time trying to figure out how to go back to school while she and her husband survive on the Social Security disability checks he has received since he was injured on the job as a painting contractor.