These results are from a Dec. 14-17 USA Today/Gallup poll, conducted in the middle of stalled negotiations between Congress and the president on the issue of averting the looming fiscal cliff. Americans were split in their opinions of the agreement ultimately reached at the end of the year, with more negative than positive approval ratings for the way the various leaders involved handled it.

The finding that most Americans think politics are hurting the country fits with a number of additional measures showing that Americans hold the federal government in general and Congress in particular — the main instruments of how American politics work — in low regard. The 19% of Americans who do not feel negatively about the way politics are being handled is quite close to Congress’ current 18% job approval rating. Confidence in Congress as an institution — the percentage with a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in it — is at 13%, and 10% and 14% of Americans rate the honesty and ethics of members of Congress and senators, respectively, as high or very high. Also, last August, 23% of Americans gave the “federal government” a positive rating, while 14% rated it neutrally, and 60% gave it a negative rating.

Despite these low ratings of the federal government and Congress, Americans are somewhat more positive about the presidency.