Congress kicks off its 2012 session about where it closed out 2011: with the worst approval ratings in decades of polling.

A new Washington Post-ABC News poll finds 13 percent of Americans approve of the job Congress is doing, one tick below the previous record set in October. Fully 84 percent hold negative views of Congress’s job performance, with nearly two-thirds disapproving “strongly.”

Americans hold more positive views of congressional representatives from the two major parties, but they’re far from popular. Twenty-one percent approve of congressional Republicans, and 33 percent approve of how Democrats in Congress are doing. Ratings for each side are buoyed by higher ratings among fellow partisans. Among political independents, 77 percent disapprove of the way the Republicans are doing their job, 68 percent give low ratings to the Democrats and 60 percent disapprove of both.

Ratings of congressional Democrats are up six points from last month, thanks primarily to a recovery in approval among Democrats. In the new poll, 63 percent of self-identified Democrats approve of their party’s representatives in Congress, up from 51 percent in mid-December.

Congressional Republicans received no such new year’s reprieve, at least overall: Their 21 percent approval rating is basically unchanged from last month. Positive ratings among fellow Republicans rose above record lows from December, but they remain below 50 percent. In particular, conservative Republicans warmed to their congressional leadership, increasing their approval of the GOP in Congress by 12 points to 48 percent overall. A slight slip in ratings among Democrats and less conservative Republicans held off any significant gains.

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