Analysis: A Do-Nothing Congress That's Done Too Much of the Wrong Thing

Source Organization: Pew Research Center


08/08/2006 - Members of the U.S. Senate have now joined their colleagues in the House of Representatives on summer recess - and perhaps not a moment too soon for most Americans.

Recent surveys from the Pew Research Center suggest this Congress has largely failed to meet even the modest expectations of the public. In surveys taken in July and early August of registered voters as well as the general public, the percentage who approve of the job Congress has been doing has averaged about 27%.

Ominously for incumbents and perhaps for Republicans, that anemic approval rating is roughly equal to what was recorded in the summer before the 1994 mid-election, when control of Congress switched from the Democrats to Republicans and 34 Democratic House incumbents were defeated.

With three months left in its two-year term, the polls suggest that the 109th Congress has made its mark on the public mostly for what it hasn't done.

A survey by the Pew Center for the People & the Press in June found that 45% of registered voters said the current Congress had accomplished "less than usual." That's double the proportion who expressed a similarly sour view four years ago and even higher than the 38% level of dissatisfaction recorded on the eve of the 1994 election.

At the same time, however, many Americans say the current crop of Senators and Representatives have spent too much time on marginal issues that are of consequence only to narrow slices of the electorate. For voters, it seems, it could hardly be worse: A "do-nothing" Congress that's done too much of the wrong things.

A majority of voters - 53% - in a July Fox News-Opinion Dynamics survey said that this Congress wasn't "currently working on issues that are important to most Americans." Those findings echo an April survey by CBS News which found that two-thirds of the public thought Congress was accomplishing "less than it usually does during a typical two-year period."

Read the full report Analysis: A Do-Nothing Congress That's Done Too Much of the Wrong Thing on the Pew Research Center Web site.

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