It has long been a political axiom that regardless of the public’s disdain for Congress, voters generally support their own members of Congress. While surveys have shown that the House and Senate have grown less popular than, say, root canals, cockroaches and traffic jams, Americans are far more forgiving of their own representatives than Congress as a whole.
But that may no longer be the case.
A new Washington Post-ABC poll released Tuesday shows that “a record-high share of Americans” now disapprove of their own member of Congress, indicating they may be just as disgusted with their own House members or senators as they are with the gridlocked Congress as a whole.
Roughly half of those surveyed, or 51 percent, say they disapprove of the performance of their own member, according to the poll. Only 41 percent of respondents say they approve of their representatives. This marks “the first time in the quarter-century of Post-ABC polling on this question” that voters’ disapproval of their own members has exceeded the 50-percent threshold, says The Washington Post.
The survey comes as Congress begins a five-week vacation with little to show for months of acrimony and debate other than a small handful of bills, including funding to overhaul the VA’s health care system and to replenish the near-bankrupt federal Highway Trust Fund. According to the Pew Research Center, the 113th Congress had enacted just 142 laws as of last Wednesday (including only 108 deemed “substantive”) – the fewest of any Congress in the previous 20 years over an equivalent time span.
Congressional Republicans left town without reaching agreement with the White House and Democrats on how to cope with the huge influx of young people and children from Central America who have illegally entered the U.S. President Obama has vowed to act unilaterally if necessary to address the humanitarian crisis and possibly extend protection against deportation to millions of other people living here illegally.
The new Post-ABC News survey also found that Democrats fare better than Republicans in the overall approval rating before the fall election. Forty-nine percent of those interviewed signaled positive views of the Democrats, compared with just 35 percent of the Republicans. (The telephone poll was done July 30 to Aug. 3 among a random sample of 1,029 adults.)
It’s hard to gauge what importance, if any, these findings will have on the outcome of the November midterms. Republicans continue to hold an advantage over Democrats in the battle for control of Congress, with pollsters and political analysts pointing to a pretty good year for the GOP. Republicans are certain to keep control of the House and have a strong chance of garnering the six seats they’ll need to reclaim Senate control.
University of Virginia political scientist Larry J. Sabato’s “Crystal Ball” currently projects the GOP picking up between four and eight seats in the Senate and five to eight seats in the House.
Responding to the latest Post-ABC Poll, Sabato said today, “These numbers would play out differently if we had widespread competitiveness in the House races. But partisan gerrymandering on both sides, plus lack of well-funded opposition in some districts that could be competitive, will prevent the public’s unhappiness from being made manifest in November.”
He added, “It’s possible the relative unpopularity of the Republican Party will limit the GOP’s Senate gains. That is, they may have a good year rather than a great year. The favorable map and President Obama’s unpopularity help Republicans counterbalance their unfavorable ratings.”
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