Congress Had Lowest-Ever Approval Rating in 2012, Gallup Says

The average approval rating of Congress throughout last year was the lowest in Gallup's 38 years of testing the question, and the negative attitudes toward the legislative branch will likely continue in 2013, the polling organization says.

Congress got an average approval rating of 15 percent over the course of 2012, while the average congressional approval rating since Gallup began measuring it in 1974 is 33 percent, Gallup said Friday. Overall, Americans have been significantly more likely to disapprove than approve of Congress over the decades, it noted.

Congress started 2013 with an approval rating of 14 percent – the lowest since September 2012 and down from 18 percent in November and December, the poll said. The disapproval rating for Congress is 81 percent, it added.

Gallup conducted the poll from Jan. 7 to 10, days after Congress and President Barack Obama agreed on legislation to avoid "fiscal cliff," which could disrupt the nation's economy if not addressed by Jan. 1. Gallup found that Republicans' approval of the job Congress is doing dropped to 6 percent in January, from 14 percent in December – which is not too different from Democrats' approval of Congress, which dropped by six points, to 15 percent from 21 percent. Independents' approval rating, however, was more constant at 17 percent, compared to 19 percent in December.

A survey by Gallup last month showed that only one in 10 Americans rated the honesty and ethical standards of members of Congress as "very high" or "high," a slightly better rating than that of car salespeople who hit the bottom of the list of 22 professions. Asked to rate the honesty and ethical standards of members of Congress in that survey, 54 percent of Americans said lawmakers on Capitol Hill have low or very low ethical standards, with only 10 percent saying the elected officials have high or very high standards.

Congress was the second lowest on that list – higher only than car salespeople who had 8 percent approval rating. Members of Congress also had the dubious distinction of having the largest "very low" or "low" rating of any profession tested in 2012 – 54 percent, though this was higher than car salespeople with 49 percent.

The new Congress now faces many challenges relating to the economy, the debt ceiling, government spending, entitlement and tax code reform, and pressure to enact legislation on gun control and immigration, among other things.

"In the broadest sense, one bit of good news for the new Congress is that its current job approval ratings are so low that they have practically nowhere to go but up," Gallup's Frank Newport said in the latest survey.

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