Approval of Congress has fallen to a new 25-year low, as Americans say they are ready to throw lawmakers out of office in the wake of the budget conflict that led to a 16-day government shutdown, according to the latest Washington Post/ABC News poll.
The survey of 1,002 adults revealed a deep disdain among Americans for how they view their representatives in Washington. As of now, 85 percent disapprove of the job Congress is doing, giving the nation's legislative body the worst rating in Post/ABC polls since 1989.
The survey conducted Oct. 17-20 found that just 12 percent of respondents actually approve of Congress' job performance at the moment, compared to the last government shutdowns at the end of 1995 and in early 1996, when Congress' approval rating was 31 percent. Now, seven in 10 respondents disapprove "strongly" of the job Congress is doing, up 17 percent just since July.
President Barack Obama fared somewhat better than Congress in the survey. His overall ratings held steady, with almost half of those polled, 48 percent, saying they approve of the way he has handled his job, while almost the same number, 49 percent, disapprove.
Still, more than three-quarters, a record 78 percent, of Americans say they are dissatisfied with the way the national political system is working, and four in 10 say they are very dissatisfied.
The poll also found that 32 percent of respondents are outright angry at the way the government is working, which marks a 21-year record high in anger directed at the federal bureaucracy in Washington. At the same time, almost nine in 10 of those surveyed said the shutdown is definitely a sign of broader problems in the nation's political process, with nearly as many saying it hurt the economy and harmed the U.S. image in the world.
Although neither party came out looking particularly good in the poll, Republicans were blamed more for the shutdown. Seventy-seven percent said they disapproved of the GOP’s handling of the budget dispute, including many who identified themselves as leaning Republican or supportive of tea party movement. By comparison, 61 percent said the Democrats were to blame and 54 percent blamed Obama. The rate of disapproval for Republicans climbed 14 percentage points from the start of the shutdown to the end, the survey revealed, indicating the sharp divisions that arose during the shutdown among Republicans.
The results could have an impact in next year's midterm elections. Only 25 percent of registered voters now say they are inclined to re-elect their representative in Congress, and 66 percent are inclined to look for someone else. The finding marked the highest level of anti-incumbency sentiment in a Post/ABC poll since 1989.
The GOP may be especially vulnerable. Just 32 percent of respondents expressed a favorable view of the party, compared to 63 percent unfavorable, the worst rating in at least 29 years for Republicans.
The tea party fared badly as well. Barely a quarter of the public has a favorable image of the conservative movement, the lowest rating in ABC/Post polling.
Congressional Democrats were also damaged, though. Unfavorable ratings for the party jumped to a record high of 49 percent.
The confrontation over the budget also took a toll on overall attitudes about the direction of the country and the workings of government. The percentage of Americans who say the United States is seriously off track rose from 60 percent in July to 68 percent in the latest survey. Looking ahead, 72 percent also said they are not confident that Obama and the Republicans will avoid another budget crisis when the current agreement runs out in January.
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