PRINCETON, NJ — With less than two months to go before the midterm congressional elections, 14% of Americans approve of how Congress is handling its job. This rating is one of the lowest Gallup has measured in the fall before a midterm election since 1974.
Americans’ rating of Congress, from Gallup’s latest Social Series survey, conducted Sept. 4-7, is barely changed from the August reading, and matches the 14% average so far in 2014. The all-time low congressional approval rating is 9%, measured in November 2013.
In September 2010, just before that year’s midterm elections in which the Republicans took control of the House with a sweeping 63-seat change, congressional approval was 18%, slightly higher than it is today. Four years before that, Congress approval was 29% in September 2006 — an election in which the Democrats did well and took control of both houses.
Previous Gallup analysis shows that low Congress approval is associated with higher seat turnover. That review also suggested that when the president’s party and the majority party in Congress are different, as they are now, voters’ frustration with Congress is more likely to be taken out on the party of the president, although this conclusion is based on a limited number of recent elections.
Most observers believe the Republicans are in little jeopardy of losing control of the House this year, so more of the focus has been on the states with Senate races. Given the idiosyncratic nature of the particular senators and states that have Senate seats up for election this year, the impact of the negative attitudes about Congress in general on specific Senate races is difficult to predict.
Still, when asked directly, two-thirds of those who disapprove of Congress say this makes them more likely to vote in the congressional elections; only 11% say it makes them less likely to vote in the elections. Taken at face value, these responses suggest that the historic disapproval ratings in a midterm year may bring more voters to the polls. There is little difference in these responses by partisan identification.
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