As Congress gets ready to return from its August recess and address the pressing issue of whether to take action in Syria, it does so amid largely unfavorable views from the public. Seven-in-ten Americans have a “very” or “mostly” unfavorable opinion of Congress, according to the Pew Research Center’s most recent survey in July. That matches the highest unfavorability rating in the nearly three decades we’ve been asking that question.
Much of the disdain for the current 113th Congress has centered on the notion that it’s not really accomplishing much. NBC News described it as “setting records for futility“; CBS News referred to the body’s “glacial pace” so far this year. And in a Fox News poll last month, only 14% of respondents said Congress has been working hard enough to deserve a summer vacation. (Dissatisfaction with Congress’ productivity is hardly new: A Pew Research Center survey from May 2011 found that fully half the population said that Congress had accomplished less than previous ones.)
But while many observers have judged Congress’ productivity simply by how many laws it’s passed, we chose a stricter standard: How many substantive (i.e., nonceremonial) measures have become law? To find out, we looked at every public law passed since the 106th Congress in 1999-2000, excluding post-office renamings, commemorative-coin authorizations, Congressional Gold Medal conferrals, and the like.
Read the full report on the Pew Research Center's website.