Politicians of both parties have worked long and hard to earn this honor and here it is: Congress now has the worst job approval rating in Gallup Poll history:

Americans’ assessment of Congress has hit a new low, with 13% saying they approve of the way Congress is handling its job. The 83% disapproval rating is also the worst Gallup has measured in more than 30 years of tracking congressional job performance.

The prior low approval rating for Congress was 14% in July 2008 when the United States was dealing with record-high gas prices and the economy was in recession.

The current results are based on a Dec. 10-12 Gallup poll, conducted as Congress is finishing work on an important lame-duck session. The session has been highlighted by the agreement on taxes forged last week by President Obama and Republicans in Congress. The tax deal preserves the 2001 and 2003 income tax rates for all Americans for two years, revises the estate tax, extends unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed for a year, and reduces payroll taxes for American workers. It is expected to pass despite vocal opposition from some lawmakers.

Americans are generally more positive than negative toward the deal, but many Democrats in Congress oppose it.

Frustration with the tax deal among Democrats in the general population could be a major reason for Americans’ historically low approval rating of Congress. That frustration could be opposition to the bill’s particulars or frustration with the Democrats in Congress opposing the president’s deal. Democrats’ approval of Congress is down significantly, to 16% now, from 29% in November. The November poll was conducted after Republicans won control of the House of Representatives for 2011-2012 in the midterm elections, so the drop in this month’s numbers is not a reaction to the Democrats’ midterm losses

Should the Republicans now be smiling since in January they’ll be taking over and this kind of rating suggests a de facto mandate?

Not really. A new Washington Post/ABC News poll which is sure to upset Republicans, talk show hosts, and bloggers who viewed the 2010 elections as a mandate for Republicans and conservatism finds no such thing.

It in fact suggests that those who think that the 2010 elections were a mandate for the Republican party and conservativism are JUST as ideologically blinded as liberal Demcrats who continue to suggest that 2008 was a mandate for liberalism and the Democratic party itself, rather than the public firing the Republicans for perceived lousy leadership:

Republicans may have made major gains in the November elections, but they have yet to win the hearts and minds of the American people, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

The midterm elections – in which Republicans gained 63 seats to take control of the House and added six seats to their Senate minority – were widely seen as a rebuke to President Obama. Still, the public trusts Obama marginally more than they do congressional Republicans to deal with the country’s main problems in the coming years, 43 percent to 38 percent.

The poll suggests that the election, while perhaps a vote against the status quo, was not a broad mandate for Republicans and their plans. The survey also underscores the degree to which Americans are conflicted about who they think is setting the agenda in Washington.

But the talk show political culture mentality that permeates 21st century politics (on both sides) dies hard. Some on each side continue to see the elections as affirmative votes for their side and ideology when in reality 2008 and 2010 were really about the bulk of American voters being utterly disgusted and disillusioned by the poor job performance and partisan self-absorption of parties that held key levers of power on election day.

The Washington Post finds that Obama’s situation is not quite the same as other sitting Presidents facing a challenging political situation:

The president’s narrow advantage is a striking contrast to the public’s mood at this time in 1994 and 2006, the last two midterm election years when one or both chambers of Congress changed hands.

After Democrats won back the House and the Senate four years ago, they had a large, double-digit lead over President George W. Bush when it came to big issues. Similarly, after the GOP’s 1994 landslide, people expressed far more confidence in congressional Republicans than they did in President Bill Clinton.

In the new poll, just 41 percent of respondents say the GOP takeover of the House is a “good thing.” About 27 percent say it is a “bad thing,” and 30 percent say it won’t make any difference. Most continue to say that the Republicans in Congress are not doing enough to compromise with Obama on important issues.

This flies the face of pressures GOPers in position of power are facing from talk radio shows, Republican Tea Party members, and many conservative pundits and Internet writers. Compromise is a dirty word — so much so that incoming House Speaker John Boehner flees from it and now insists on using the word “common ground.”

At this time in 1994, six in 10 Americans said the GOP had taken a stronger leadership role in Washington, while just one in four said Clinton was firmly in charge. In the new poll, Americans are about evenly split between Obama and the Republicans in Congress on this question.

The public is also divided down the middle when it comes to the top issue: About 45 percent say they trust the GOP when it comes to the economy; 44 percent side with Obama. In the wake of the 1994 elections, Republicans held a sizable, 23-point advantage over Clinton on the economy. The new poll also has even splits between Obama and the GOP on taxes and dealing with the threat of terrorism.

Just as the poll is a warning sign to Republicans to not let their larger number of members of Congress go to their heads, the poll also is a warning to Barack Obama: simply dismissing Republican’s ideas and demands won’t do because the party is still trusted on economic issues, particuarly as the public’s confidence that Obama and the Democrats know what they’re doing on the economy wanes.

JOE GANDELMAN, Editor-In-Chief
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