Scrutinizing the approval rating of Congress
By Len Robbins
The news story was indeed shocking: A recent poll showed the U.S. Congress has an all-time low job approval rating.
In the Associated Press poll, the Congressional approval rating was five percent. Yes, only five percent of Americans polled approve of the job our Congress is currently doing. Two weeks ago, 10 percent of the public reportedly approved of the decisions being made by our Congress. According to an AP story, the latest five-percent approval rating is the lowest in U.S. history, beating the 10-percent approval rating of two weeks ago by an estimated five-percent points. What I found most shocking is that five percent of Americans approved of the job our Congressional leaders are doing. That figure seems rather high to me. How can this be?
Did a pollster really call someone, an American who is capable of answering a phone, and the respondent actually say they thought Congress was doing a swell job? I find that hard to believe.
Pollster: “So, do you: A. Approve of the job Congress is doing; B. Disapprove of the job Congress is doing; C. Don’t care; or D. Don’t know what a Congress is.”
Pollster: “I’ll take that as a yes. You approve of the job Congress is doing.”
According to a press release, the poll was conducted by GfK Public Affairs & Corporate Communications based on interviews with 1,227 adults. My math (meaning, my calculator) shows five percent of 1,227 is 61.35 people. Congress (the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate) has 535 members. So, even if the pollsters only called congressional offices – which was my initial hunch upon hearing how skewed the figures were in Congress’ favor – that means only a little more than 10 percent of Congressional members approved of their own performances, which also seems rather bloated.
The only way I see this poll being accurate is if the pollsters:
A. Only called, as stated, sitting U.S. Congress members.
B. Only called people who get their news and current events from Nickelodeon.
C. Only called the Kardashians.
Or D. Sandwich.
Mind you, historically, Congress has had low approval ratings. According to the Gallup polls, since 1974, the Congressional approval rating has basically hovered between 20 and 40 percent, with it reaching the 80 percent approval mark briefly late in 2001. But, until last week, it had never slipped down into single digits. These historical trends beg a couple of questions:
1. What in the world were people so happy about in 2001?
And 2. If the approval rating of Congress has been 20-to-40 percent for basically the last 40 years, other than a brief period when we were all apparently high, why do members of Congress keep getting re-elected? If only five percent of the electorate, or even 40 percent, disapprove of the job our federal elected officials are doing, how are incumbents consistently getting re-elected cycle after cycle?
Riddle me that while I eat this sandwich.
© Len Robbins 2013
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