June 20, 2007


This 14% Congressional confidence rating is the all-time low for this measure, which Gallup initiated in 1973. The previous low point for Congress was 18% at several points in the period of time 1991 to 1994.

Congress is now nestled at the bottom of the list of Gallup's annual Confidence in Institutions rankings, along with HMOs. Just 15% of Americans have a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in HMOs. (By way of contrast, 69% of Americans have a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in the military, which tops the list. More on this at on Thursday). . . .

Generally speaking, Americans have been skeptical about Congress for decades now. But the current 14% confidence rating for Congress is down from 19% last year and is the lowest in Gallup’s history, surpassing the 18% confidence in Congress measured in 1991, 1993 and 1994.

Ouch: Worse than HMOs. It's well-earned. Nonetheless, this is troubling, and not just for the Democrats, who are only doing somewhat worse than the GOP Congress did. How long can we have a free and successful nation with such an unpopular -- and deservedly so -- political class.

UPDATE: Reader Christopher Grayce emails:

C'mon, now, this is GOOD news. Surely Americans are better off learning to be more deeply and consistently skeptical about what government can actually accomplish. That way lies greater citizen self-reliance, and a decreased tendency to look to government to solve big complex problems like protecting us all from bad weather and bad luck.

Well, there's some of that. But the problem is, 14% is an awfully low number, and while we're in no danger of a military coup, the contrast with the military's much higher approval explains why this is iffy as a long-term proposition. (And lowering the military's numbers isn't a good response, either.)

You need a certain amount of confidence for a nation to operate as a nation. Worse yet, I think this low approval number is justified, which illustrates that we're being pretty badly governed. That's a problem, too.

ANOTHER UPDATE: This doesn't help much:

Americans give both President Bush and the Congress failing marks on their handling of immigration, according to a new UPI/Zogby poll on the topic.

The Zogby Interactive poll of 8,300 adults nationwide finds just 3% of Americans viewing Congress's handling of the immigration issue in favorable terms, while 9% say the same of the President-even as respondents in the survey rated it the second most important issue facing the country, after the war in Iraq.

Three percent? That doesn't quite put the possibility that no one approves within the margin of error, but . . . .

MORE: Reader Bruce Goldston emails:

I think there is a greater disconnect between the Political Class and the Public than ever before -- and, to quote a phrase -- deservedly so. The most liberal senator has more in common with the most conservative senator than either has in common with you or me, and we know it.


STILL MORE: Jim Norman of USA Today emails to note that this isn't an "approval" number, but a "confidence" number:

The 14% number for Congress is not really an approval rating. It's actually a measure of confidence in the institution of Congress. Of course the two (approval, confidence) aren't that much different, but Gallup does have a specific question to measure Congressional approval -- the very straightforward "Do you approve or disapprove of the way Congress is handling its job?"

That question was also asked in Gallup's poll this month, and the approval rating was 24%. That's not the lowest (18% in 1992), but it's among the 10 lowest measured in the 150+ times Gallup has asked the Congressional approval question, going back to 1980.

Worth keeping that in mind -- mixing the two up isn't apples and oranges, but it's at least winesaps vs. Granny Smiths. Er, or choose the apple-related metaphor of your choice.