“Americans are extremely displeased with Congress,” begins Pew Research’s latest poll analysis, and this time they really, really mean it. Congress never performs particularly well in polling, even though incumbents have a >90% chance of keeping their jobs. This midterm, those odds may look considerably worse, as Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid have managed approval ratings to depths not seen in a generation:
Currently, 37% express a favorable opinion of Congress, while 52% hold an unfavorable view. Positive opinions of Congress have declined by 13 points since April and are now at one of their lowest points in more than two decades of Pew Research Center surveys.
At the same time, intentions to vote Democratic in the next midterm election are markedly lower than they have been over the past four years. Voters are about evenly divided when asked how they would vote if the election for Congress were being held today: 45% say they would vote for a Democratic candidate in their district, or lean Democratic, while 44% say they would vote for a Republican or lean Republican. At about this point four years ago, Democrats led in the generic congressional ballot by 52% to 40% and went on to win a majority of the popular vote and regain control of Congress the following November.
What has happened since April to knock 13 points off of Congressional favorability?
- Partisan Porkulus package failed to stimulate the economy
- Cap-and-trade got passed in a rush without opportunity to read the bill
- Pelosi and Obama tried jamming ObamaCare through the House
To give a comparison, take a look at 1993’s Pew numbers. Congress reached the nadir of its favorability — at around 41%, according to their graph. In July 1994, Democrats outpolled Republicans by a slight margin on the generic Congressional ballot, 47%-45%. In November 1994, Democrats lost 54 seats and control of the House for the first time in more than 40 years. Now they’re down to 45%-44% and declining to 37% favorability under the leadership of Pelosi, Reid, & Co.
And this is among adults, not registered or likely voters. This should be the most favorable sampling for Pelosi and Reid.
Interestingly, the importance of economic issues appears to have dropped. In February, 80% of respondents had them as their highest priority; now it’s 55%. Health care has jumped from 3% to 20% in the intervening time, but that doesn’t help Democrats much. More people oppose ObamaCare now than before, and those strongly disapproving outweigh those who strongly support it by nine points, 34%-25%.
One other item of note: while CBS, NBC, and the Washington Post continue to use samples that have double-digit differences between Republicans and Democrats, Pew puts that number at 6%. Remember that when checking sampling and methodology in future polling.