Americans Disapprove Of Congress & Think Party Control Doesn’t Matter

WEST LONG BRANCH – More than three quarters of Americans (76%) disapprove of the job Congress is doing, and only 14% approve, according to the latest national Monmouth University Poll. However, few believe things would change if either party gained control of both houses.

“Americans simply do not believe that Washington has been working on their behalf. Even though most of those polled are initially unaware of the party split in Congressional leadership, they don’t think that unified party control would make much of a difference when presented with this information,” said Patrick Murray, director of the New Jersey-based Monmouth University Polling Institute. “Not only is Congress broken, but most people seem to believe it is beyond repair.”

When asked which chamber has been doing a better job for the country, 18% pick the House and 14% name the Senate. The majority (60%) say both have performed about the same. Unsurprisingly, Republicans are more likely to say the House (32%) rather than the Senate (7%) has done a better job. Democrats are somewhat more likely to give the Senate (20%) the edge over the House (10%). In both cases, though, a majority of partisans don’t see any difference between the two chambers’ performance.

The poll also found that many Americans are unaware that party control of the two chambers is divided. Just under half (49%) know the House is run by the Republican party, while 17% think it is led by the Democrats and 34% do not know. Similarly, just 45% know the Senate is controlled by Democrats, while another 23% think it is GOP led and 32% offer no response on party control.

Interestingly, Republicans are more likely to know that the Senate is controlled by Democrats (58%) than know the House is run by their own party (48%). The pattern is similar for Americans who identify as Democrats – 52% know that the GOP runs the House but just 42% know their own party controls the Senate. Taken together, 35% of Americans can accurately name the parties that control both chambers of Congress, 13% can only name the House majority party and 10% can only name the Senate majority party. The remaining 42% can name neither.

After being informed of which party leads each chamber of Congress, 43% of Americans say that having the same party control both houses would make no difference to Congressional performance. The remainder are split on whether single party leadership would be better (24%) or worse (20%) for the country. Another 9% say it depends on which party is in control. Among poll respondents who were already aware which party controls each chamber, 32% say that single party control would make no difference, 31% say the country would be better, and 17% say the country would be worse. There are no significant partisan differences in the responses to this question.

Americans are also skeptical that the president’s own party affiliation would make any difference in his or her ability to work with a divided Congress. Looking ahead to 2016, most Americans (56%) say the new president’s party would not have any impact on improving Washington if Congressional control remains split. Just 20% say that a Republican president is likely to make more progress with a divided Congress and a similar 14% say that a Democrat would be able to work better with a divided Congress. Republicans (50%) have more faith that a president of their own party can effectively manage a divided Congress than Democrats do (33%).

“The poll was conducted before the recent bipartisan cooperation on Syria. But agreement on one foreign policy issue is unlikely to have a significant impact on opinion of Washington. The public will be paying closer attention to the upcoming budget and debt ceiling battles as a sign of how the two parties work together,” said Murray.

The latest Monmouth University Poll was conducted by telephone with a national random sample of 1012 adults age 18 and older from July 25 to 30, 2013. This sample has a margin of error of + 3.1 percent. The poll was conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute in West Long Branch.

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