Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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November 14, 2009

SUCCESS BEGETS SUCCESS.... Approval ratings for Congress have slowly deteriorated over the course of the year, but a new Gallup poll shows opinions of the legislative branch turning upwards, if only a little.


The poll found, "Americans express slightly greater approval of Congress this month after last month's decline. The current 26% rating is up from 21% in October but down from 31% in August and September."

To be sure, a 26% approval rating is downright horrible, and there's no reason for anyone to celebrate a five-point uptick. The point, however, is that Congress' support went up after getting something done.

"The results are from a Gallup poll conducted Nov. 5-8, as the U.S. House of Representatives labored through the weekend on healthcare reform, ultimately passing a $1 trillion bill intended to expand coverage to millions more Americans," the analysis explained.

There are multiple dynamics involved in the public's attitudes towards Congress, but it's worth remembering that getting something done can do wonders for perceptions. If legislators want their branch of government to be more popular, it can, you know, do more legislating. If there's a perception of ineptitude, the best way to overcome this is to be more effective at passing bills.

Also note the partisan breakdown. Congress' numbers have fallen since March, in large part because self-identified Democrats have been less than pleased with the Democratic Congress. As the House passed health care, however, Democrats' approval of the institution climbed from 36% to 47%. (Even rank-and-file Republicans were more impressed, going from 9% to 17%.)

The more Congress gets done, the better its numbers will be.

Steve Benen 11:50 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (15)

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The teeevee talking heads have a tendency to remark on weakening poll numbers for dems as a sign that people are turning against them or are starting to favor republicans-- for some reason they completely ignore the possibility that a lot of us just want so see the dems deliver more. Same goes for Obama's numbers, we still support him, we just want him to more successful than he has been able to be thus far.

Posted by: zoe kentucky on November 14, 2009 at 11:57 AM | PERMALINK

No, no, no! The thing to do is avoid anything that might lead the good folks at Fox to say something mean. Just do nothing, and everyone who voted for you in Nov 2008 will be thrilled!

Posted by: Obama Won on Change on November 14, 2009 at 12:00 PM | PERMALINK

A breakdown between Rs and Ds on the chart would have been good. We have the various holds that have been put on bills and appointees by the Rs and the seeming inability of the Ds to overcome it. We have the nonsense about bipartisanship. And, of course, we have the MSM lack of intelligent analysis and depth.

Posted by: VaLiberal on November 14, 2009 at 12:20 PM | PERMALINK

No, no, no! The thing to do is avoid anything that might lead the good folks at Fox to say something mean. Just do nothing, and everyone who voted for you in Nov 2008 will be thrilled!

That's right! Everyone knows that the Dems base somehow doesn't count because they're not going to go anywhere else, but the GOP base counts extra. So maybe if the Dems start competing with the GOP in a race to see who can get to full-out fascism faster, then both the independents AND the triple-word-score GOP base will turn out to vote for them and Fox will say really nice things about them. And how awesome will that be! Because everyone knows that the goal of "public service" is to get people to say nice things about you.

Posted by: Equal Opportunity Cynic on November 14, 2009 at 12:33 PM | PERMALINK

Frankly at this point I question why Congress even exists.

Posted by: MNPundit on November 14, 2009 at 12:33 PM | PERMALINK

I would love to compare this with the average approval rating of everyone's individual representative or senator.

Posted by: Steve Simitzis on November 14, 2009 at 12:41 PM | PERMALINK

When one cuts through the nonsense and poll-tested soundbites, (to quote someone...) i'd say the dismal popularity of the Congress scales how bought it is by corporate america...

Posted by: neill on November 14, 2009 at 12:54 PM | PERMALINK

Then there's this, from the suspect Wall Street Journal: In a Rasmussen Reports poll taken after the House of Representatives passed health-care reform by the narrowest of margins last Saturday night, 54% of likely voters say they are opposed to the plan with only 45% in favor. Furthermore, in the all-important category of unaffiliated voters, 58% oppose the bill.

Posted by: MatthewRMarler on November 14, 2009 at 2:15 PM | PERMALINK

Any evidence that a popular congress gives a boost to incumbents? We don't elect a congress, we elect a representative, which might explain why congress critters don't much care for the game's popularity.

Posted by: inkadu on November 14, 2009 at 2:24 PM | PERMALINK

I have always felt that there were always be citizens who never like what Congress is doing and those that don't like what much of Congress is doing. The latter can switch depending on the party in power and the policies it implements.

But more than that, citizens don't like it when Congress doesn't seem to do anything at all for whatever the reason. They don't understand why political posturing is more important than running the country. They don't understand legislative tricks and tactics. They don't understand why Congress critters can't be grown ups. When Congress is passing legislation or seems to be working toward legislation they feel Congress is working. Sure them may not agree but at least they are moving instead of just gathering dust, campaign contributions, and other types of largess while on the public dole.

What Republicans fail to grasp (among many, many things) is just saying no is not enough. Logjamming when you are in power is no better than logjamming when you aren't.

Of course after reading a history of the House of Representative by Robert Remini, I am not a believer in the myth that Congress as an actual body in practice, as opposed to an idea or concept, was ever loved by most of people.

Posted by: ET on November 14, 2009 at 2:25 PM | PERMALINK

The Saturday Trifecta: Marler citing Rasmussen via The Wall Street Journal.

If there is a conservative talking point in need of a poll, Scotty Rasmussen is your man.

Posted by: Dwight on November 14, 2009 at 4:02 PM | PERMALINK

You don't have to be right wing to despise the House bill. I'll be voting DSUSA if that's all the corporate whore Democrats can pass as reform.

Posted by: par4 on November 14, 2009 at 5:43 PM | PERMALINK

There is, of course, no evidence at all of what you are saying, Steve. People are justifiably unhappy with Congress. There is no reason to believe that is going to change because they pass a bill YOU support.

And really, Steve, how are you different than the corporate media or FOX? One can just read Obama's talking points directly and cut out your middleman nonsense entirely. I certainly had my qualms with Kevin Drum, but at least he wasn't just a mouthpiece for the President. Your writing is inferior as well. Which is, of course, why you average about 11 comments per thread.

Posted by: Pat on November 14, 2009 at 5:57 PM | PERMALINK

Compare the approval ratings for Congress with the rate of incumbent re-election.

Until the latter gets near the former, approval ratings don't mean a damn to them.

Posted by: Chris on November 14, 2009 at 7:16 PM | PERMALINK

Congress, especially the Senate, seems to consist largely of corrupt, lazy, incompetent, idiotic, senile or childish members. What's not to like?

Posted by: qwerty on November 14, 2009 at 7:44 PM | PERMALINK
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