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Poll: 75 percent disapprove of Congress' performance

  • Story Highlights
  • Approval rating for all members of Congress sits at 22 percent
  • Congress needs to focus on the big issues, professor says
  • Overall congressional approval rating down 6 points from last October
  • Next Article in Politics »
From Sasha Johnson and Paul Steinhauser
CNN
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Americans think Congress is doing a pretty lousy job, according to a poll released Friday.

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"On the big issues of the day, Congress doesn't seem to be doing very much," CNN's polling director says.

The approval rating for all members of Congress sits at a dismal 22 percent, according to the CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll. About 75 percent of those surveyed said they disapprove of the way Congress is handling its job.

A year ago, a similar poll found the numbers to be 28 percent approval, 63 percent disapproval.

"The big issues of the day just don't seem to be being addressed," said Sarah Binder, a political science professor at George Washington University who studies Congress. "The issues that matter most to people -- the economy, health care, the environment and the larger war in Iraq -- it is so difficult for Congress to move on those issues that I believe the public looks and says, 'Why aren't they doing anything?' "

Approval of congressional Democrats stands at 43 percent, twice that of Congress in general. The flip side, however, is that Democrats who control Congress still face a disapproval rating of 51 percent, a figure that has increased 11 percentage points since March. Video Watch a report on the new job approval numbers »

"The ratings for Congress overall have been mired in the mid- to low 20s for several months, but for most of the year, Americans have had a positive view of the Democrats in Congress," said CNN polling director Keating Holland. "That's not true any longer -- this poll is the first time we have found majority disapproval for the Democratic leaders' track record since they took control of Congress."

"I think it is important to remember that when Congress performs well, when it actually addresses the big issues of the day, it tends to be rewarded in the public's view of Congress," Binder said. "If today's approval ratings are down in the dumps, we probably shouldn't be surprised. On the big issues of the day, Congress doesn't seem to be doing very much."

Adds Holland, "The problem is that the dwindling popularity of the congressional Democrats will probably only make it harder for them to score any legislative victories -- which is probably the only way to turn their approval numbers around."

With the overall congressional approval rating down 6 points from last October, how likely is a repeat next year of what happened in last year's midterm elections, when Democrats won back control of both houses of Congress?

CNN senior political analyst Bill Schneider said anything is possible.

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"No one is betting that the Democrats will lose their majorities in the House and Senate," he said, "but when anti-Washington sentiment is as high as it is now, politics is very unpredictable."

The poll was conducted by telephone October 12 to 14 with roughly 600 Americans for each question, with a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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