Dismal Congressional Approval Ratings Don't Bode Well For House Lawmakers

Dismal Congressional Approval Ratings Don't Bode Well For House Lawmakers

New AP-GfK poll shows congressional incumbents on both sides of the aisle are losing faith from home.

It's no secret that congressional approval has fallen to dismal lows since the embarrassing gridlock before the Budget Control Act. However, as to which party or what members are receiving the greatest public furor, it's been pretty inconsistent. House Republicans blame President Obama for not demonstrating more leadership, while Democrats and Obama blame Republicans, particularly the Tea Party-affiliated freshmen, for taking a hardline stance and refusing compromise. The public, at least the public respondents in a new Associated Press-GfK poll, seems to have enough disappointment for both sides of the aisle. That said, there does seem to be a heavier dollop of blame heaped on House Republicans and Tea Party members in particular. A high percentage of respondents are also unhappy with their particular representatives regardless of party lines. With the same budgetary issues coming up before the supercommittee this fall, it's likely that approval will stay low and there will be a frantic effort by both sides of the aisle to heap blame on the other.

The study finds congressional disapproval at a near-historic high of 87%, with a nearly equal distrust of both Republicans and Democrats to handle the future of the economy. Only 40% maintain faith in the Republican party to do so and 43% in the Democratic party, while only a third of Independents trust either group. Respondents of both parties had plenty of criticism of both parties. "The tea party Republicans weren't going to let it happen, and Boehner kowtowed to them," said on Independent, accusing the party of acting only in a way that would, "bring the president down. In addition, a Republican respondent pined for the old days. "I guess I long for the day back in the 70's and 80's when we could disagree but we could get a compromise worked out." This sentiment, and a movement toward wanting compromise and bipartisanship, is a growing sentiment in the narrative of the country, as well as the polling. It's also directly at odds with a radical Tea Party element in the Republican Party and a lesser-acknowledged radical liberal element in among House Democrats. Concerning the budget deal, one refuses any compromise that includes tax hikes, and the other refuses any compromise that includes cuts to entitlement programs like Medicare.

Disapproval among Independents bears the greatest impact for the 2012 elections. Independent voters are the crucial swing votes in largely partisan, party-line general elections. According to the poll results, Independents were the "least forgiving to incumbents", 65% saying that they would oust their own representative in 2012. In addition, Independents have a favorable view toward raising taxes, in addition to spending cuts, as a solution to the national debt. Among specific congressional lawmakers, only 20% of Independents look favorably upon John Boehner, compared to 47% of Republicans.

The Tea Party movement has lost considerable support in the general public according to the respondents replies, much of it the result of the perceived entrenchment of Tea Party members along ideological lines. Of the respondents, 32% have a deeply unfavorable impression of the movement, and only 25% identified with them; a 10-point drop since last November.

The AP-GfK study, conducted via phone, was administered to a random sample of 1,000 adults across the country, and has a margin of error of 4.1 points. Though I don't feel that these polls necessary bear any real influence in the actual politics of the country, they are a useful, and hopefully objective, snapshot of our constantly evolving political and social climate. Republicans are likely to take much of the blame should current debt negotiations go awry in the supercommittee, particularly if the six GOP members take the hardline stance that characterized the House debt fight in July. Democrats, on the other hand, need to know they're not out of the woods and that there can be no serious solution without some entitlement reform (other than Social Security, which isn't actually an entitlement anyway). If Democrats attempt to let public dissatisfaction with House Republicans paint the debt deal in a bad light, everyone stands to lose.