The Washington Post

How much do people hate Congress? Let us count the ways.

Catherine Walker marks her ballot at the William W. Blackburn Middle School in Jackson, Miss., on June 24. (Rogelio V. Solis/Associated Press)

A new poll from NBC News and Marist College registers what would appear to be Americans' overwhelming distaste for Congress. The survey shows that just 22 percent of people would describe Congress as at least "somewhat productive," while 74 percent say it has been at least "somewhat unproductive." Half of Americans say Congress has been "very unproductive," and only 3 percent say it has been "very productive."

This is just the latest in a long line of polls trying to measure just how unhappy Americans are with their federal lawmakers.

And boy, do they seem unhappy.

A quick recap:

1) Gallup has shown Congress's approval rating languishing around an all-time low -- most recently at 15 percent.


2) Another Gallup poll showed that just 7 percent of Americans say they have "a great deal" or "quite a lot" of confidence in Congress. Half (50 percent) said they have "very little" confidence in their lawmakers.

Those numbers are all the worst ever.


3) About seven in 10 Americans (69 percent) say they don't want most members of Congress reelected, according to a recent Pew Research Center poll.

An additional 36 percent say they don't want their own representative reelected. Both of those are the highest in the past two decades.

AntiIncumbent (1)

4) A CBS News/New York Times poll from April 2013 showed that just 9 percent of people think Congress is more interested in serving its constituents, while 85 percent think it's more interested in serving special interests.

As recently as 2006, twice as many people (18 percent) gave Congress credit for representing the people it was meant to represent. Still not great, but at least better.

5) A recent FiveThirtyEight poll showed that Americans dislike Congress more than Jar Jar Binks and Darth Vader.

The chart below speaks for itself.


6) A Public Policy Polling survey in 2011 showed that Americans favored root canals, cockroaches, Genghis Khan and even used-car salesmen in head-to-head match-ups with Congress.

Also: Brussels sprouts.

Get the picture yet? Americans say they are very unhappy with Congress.

Of course, if you really believe that Americans hate Congress more than cockroaches or root canals, we have some oceanfront property in Arizona to sell you. After all, people with roaches and root canals seek remedies to those problems; Americans who are overwhelmingly unhappy with Congress are doing very little about it, voting at the lowest levels on record this primary season.

Courtesy: Center for the Study of the American Electorate

Also, as we've written before, Americans' declining faith in Congress tracks pretty nicely alongside their declining faith in a lot of American institutions.

But even as everything else is on the downswing, Congress remains the worst of the worst. And indeed, the idea that 22 percent of Americans would even describe it as "somewhat productive" strains credulity, given that Congress hasn't addressed most of the major issues of today and, when it does, it often just delays the hardest choices for a few months or years at a time.

We would argue that these 22 percent of people probably, like most Americans, haven't been paying much attention.

Aaron Blake covers national politics and writes regularly for The Fix.



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