The new 2009 low in approval from independents comes at a time when a majority of registered independents say they would likely vote Republican rather than Democratic, 52% to 30%, if elections for Congress were held today. With Republicans and Democrats exhibiting the same degree of loyalty to their parties’ candidates, independents’ preference for Republicans gives that party a 48% to 44% edge over Democrats among registered voters overall.

Approval of Congress is one of several key indicators to watch leading up to the 2010 midterm elections, with lower approval ratings generally relating to greater turnover in seats from one party to the other. Congress’ job approval rating now precisely matches the 26% recorded in November 2006, just before control of Congress shifted from Republicans to Democrats, and is not too dissimilar from the 23% recorded in October 1994, just before control shifted from Democrats to Republicans. It is also well below its 36% average of the past two decades.