‘Washington’ still a dirty word, McClatchy-Marist Poll finds

McClatchy Washington BureauFebruary 12, 2014 

View from the top of the Capitol dome in Washington D.C.


— President Barack Obama and Congress get dismal approval ratings from the American public, as most people see little hope Washington can improve the economy or their lives, a new McClatchy-Marist Poll finds.

Obama’s approval rating remains stuck at 42 percent, with 52 percent disapproving. The latest approval figure is down from 43 percent in December. His low point came in September 2011 at 39 percent.

The mild economic rebound has barely helped Obama. Fifty-four percent disliked his handling of the economy. Forty-one percent approved, up from 40 percent in December and 37 percent in July.

The president got similar low marks this month on foreign policy – half disapproved, 43 percent approved. The approval number was down from December’s 46 percent.

Overall, voters were nearly split on their overall impression of Obama, with half seeing him unfavorably and 47 percent favorably.

Congress fared worse. Seventy-two percent registered disapproval of the job congressional Republicans were doing, while 22 percent were pleased. Sixty percent disapproved of congressional Democrats’ performance.

Republicans have a 232-200 majority in the House of Representatives. Democrats control 55 of the 100 Senate seats.

“People around the country just have a miserable view right now about what’s going on in Washington,” said Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion in New York.

Thirty-one percent of registered voters gave Washington’s elected officials an F, and an equal number gave them a D. Twenty-seven percent offered Cs, while 10 percent gave out Bs. One percent were willing to say A.

The latest numbers are little changed from December, shortly after a 16-day partial government shutdown helped sustain already low approval numbers. But in the last two months, Obama and Republicans have worked together to enact major budget, agriculture and defense legislation.

Doesn’t matter, said Miringoff. Opinions about Washington have been tumbling since the 2009-10 fight over Obama’s health care plan and continued as the two sides engaged in a war over spending and the debt limit from 2011 until last fall.

“The ill will has been formed over an extended period of time,” Miringoff said. “The recent developments are too little too late.”

Americans remain unusually pessimistic about the future. Sixty-six percent thought things were going in the wrong direction, while 31 percent were optimistic. Democrats were more inclined to see events moving in the right direction – by 57 percent to 39 percent – but Republicans gave wrong direction a 91 percent to 8 percent bulge.

People often didn’t even like how their own political parties were acting.

Overall, 53 percent had an unfavorable view of the Democratic Party, including 16 percent of Democrats. Republicans did worse, as 62 percent of all voters disapproved, including 29 percent of Republicans.

Nor were people confident that Obama or Republicans can make headway on key issues this year.

One-third of all voters were not confident at all about the president, and another third were simply not confident about him. About one-fourth did express confidence, and 7 percent were very confident.

Republicans garnered somewhat less optimism. Twenty-nine percent were not confident at all about Republicans, while 45 percent were not confident. Twenty-three percent were either confident or very confident.

Republicans again had little faith in their own party – about one-third were not very confident at all about the party’s ability to get things done, and 43 percent were not confident.

The party continues to be rocked by a battle between tea party conservatives, who are reluctant to work with or compromise with Democrats, and more establishment, center-right Republicans. The latest numbers, said Miringoff, give few clues as to what could happen either in upcoming primaries or the general election.

“There’s no positive movement for any group,” he said.

If the election were held today, 46 percent said they vote for a Democrat while 44 percent preferred a Republican. Independents split 43 percent to 40 percent for Democrats.


This survey of 1,197 adults was conducted Feb. 4-9 by The Marist Poll, sponsored in partnership with the McClatchy Co. Adults residing in the continental United States were interviewed by telephone using live interviewers. Landline telephone numbers were randomly selected based upon a list of telephone exchanges from throughout the nation from ASDE Survey Sampler Inc. The exchanges were selected to ensure that each region was represented in proportion to its population. To increase coverage, this landline sample was supplemented by respondents reached through random dialing of cellphone numbers from Survey Sampling International. The two samples were then combined and balanced to reflect the 2010 census results for age, gender, income, race and region. Results are statistically significant within plus or minus 2.8 percentage points. There are 970 registered voters. The results for this subset are statistically significant within plus or minus 3.1 percentage points. The error margin increases for cross-tabulations.

Email: dlightman@mcclatchydc.com; Twitter: @lightmandavid

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