Congress

The public’s approval ratings of Congress in 2016 remains historically low

House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis. talks with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of Calif. on Capitol Hill in Washington last week.
House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis. talks with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of Calif. on Capitol Hill in Washington last week. AP

Seventeen percent.

That’s Congress’ average 2016 approval rating, according to new Gallup Poll findings released Thursday, continuing a trend that’s persisted through this decade.

“Congressional approval in the U.S., while never high, saw the bottom fall out in the 2010s,” said a Gallup analysis.

The latest figure isn’t the worst; that was 14 percent in 2013, the year gridlock led to a partial, brief government shutdown.

Among the possible reasons for this year’s number: What Gallup called “the hyperpartisanship and gridlock resulting from divided party control of government, plus perceptions that Congress is controlled by major donors and lobbyists.”

The yearly approval rating has been in the teens since 2009, when it reached 30 percent.

And after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, approval averaged 56 percent that year. Since Gallup began gauging congressional approval in 1974, the annual average has been 31 percent.

In December, Congress’ approval rating was 18 percent. Seventy-eight percent disapproved.

This year, even Republicans aren’t enthusiastic about Congress, even though the GOP controls both the Senate and House.

“While disapproval of Congress by party differed, often markedly, in the Bill Clinton and George W. Bush administrations, disapproval has been particularly acute during the Obama years, as both parties have given Congress abysmal ratings,” Gallup found.

“This could be related to Americans' frustration with the seeming inability of Congress to get important things done, and their frequent selection of the government as the nation’s most important problem. In the previous two presidential administrations, supporters of the party in power generally were favorable toward Congress, but that has not been the case in recent years.”

Congress wrapped up its 2016 session Friday, as the Senate passed a stopgap budget bill less than an hour before much of the government was about to shut down. The bill funds most of the government through April 28.

David Lightman: 202-383-6101, @lightmandavid

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