Gallup, in a poll released on Tuesday, October 26th, announced that “Americans’ approval of the job the 117th Congress is doing slipped six points in the past month to 21%, its lowest thus far in 2021.”
Gallup does note that, while the 21% approval rating is low and a long way off from the 36% approval rating Congress had at this year’s high point, it’s hardly the worst approval rating that Congress has gotten in recent years.
For example, it’s “still better than the 15% approval rating at the end of the divided 116th Congress in December.” The 36% approval rating came after “Congress passed the latest COVID-19 economic relief package, known as the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.”
Just the News, in an article on the topic, notes that:
Congress has seen consistently low approval ratings for years, with roughly an average of 18% in the last decade. Those numbers jumped at the beginning of 2021 with a new Democratic government.
However, this new poll indicates that Democrats’ honeymoon period is over even as they try to get their biggest legislative challenge across the finish line. Democratic leadership has suggested a deal is imminent, but so far it has not materialized.
Part of the reason for the massive drop in Congress’s approval rating is that Democrats were upset with its failure to pass the massive infrastructure bill. Gallup, reflecting on the 15 point plummet, notes that Democrat support of Congress is now “33%, down from 55% in September” and 61% in February, shortly after Biden was sworn into office.
Only 5% of Republicans approve of Congress, along with 22% of Independents.
Despite the drop, a 21% approval rating is far from abnormal for our legislative body. As Gallup reports for context, “Congress’ job approval rating has averaged just 18% over the past decade-plus (since 2010), with individual readings during that time ranging from 9% to 36%. Against that backdrop, today’s 21% is about average for this era, even if low for 2021.”
Furthermore, Gallup speculates that Congress’s approval rating could rise in the coming months if it manages to reach a deal on the budget and infrastructure, saying “With Democrats on Capitol Hill reportedly closer to a deal on Biden’s spending bill, Democrats’ approval could rebound next month. Whether that persists into 2022 or proves short-lived will depend on whether conflict between different factions in the Democratic caucus continues to stall Biden’s agenda or the various sides find a way to unite.”
However, it remains to be seen if such a deal on a spending package is possible.
On one hand, the Wall Street Journal reported in September that President Biden attempted to find some sort of budget consensus when he and “moderate” Democrat lawmakers “discussed reducing the size of the package, which would expand access to healthcare, offer universal prekindergarten and reduce carbon emissions, among other measures, to below $3 trillion, according to two people familiar with the meeting.” Similarly, Mitch McConnell backed down from the debt-ceiling standoff, giving both sides time to potentially devise a workable deal.
On the other hand, both conservatives and progressives have expressed an unwillingness to make a deal. On the progressive side, the WSJ reports that progressive lawmakers “continued to threaten to block passage of a separate, roughly $1 trillion infrastructure bill next week if it comes to the House floor before the larger package.” Similarly, conservative lawmakers are generally unwilling to back yet another massive increase to the debt ceiling or the Democrats’ $3.5 trillion infrastructure package.
Based on Gallup’s poll, the one potential boost for Congress is if it passes some sort of deal on the budget and infrastructure. So, if a compromise cannot be reached, then Congress’s dismal approval rating will likely remain low, if it doesn’t drop even lower.