Only 10 percent of Americans approve of Congress' job performance, according to Gallup, down from 13 percent in January and the previous low of 11 percent recorded by the pollsters in December 2011. Although the survey did not pinpoint any specific recent events that may have led to the continued deterioration of Congress' image, it did determine the animosity exists across party lines: approval among Democrats and Republicans was almost equally low at 11 percent and 12 percent, respectively, while only 8 percent of Independents said they were satisfied with their elected representatives.
The divided control in the House and Senate may contribute to the dismal ratings among Americans of all major political affiliations, according to the survey. For instance, when Democrats controlled both houses of Congress through much of 2009 and 2010, Gallup found that Democrats were considerably more positive about the state of Congress than either Republicans or independents were.
Congress' approval rating averaged 17 percent for all of 2011, reaching its highest point last May at 24 percent. Gallup reports the highest approval rating it has recorded for Congress, was 94 percent in October 2001, a month after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Gallup reports the record-low approval rating is especially unusual because Americans expressed relatively positive opinions about the state of the U.S. in surveys conducted during the same period. For instance, Americans' confidence in the economy improved for the fifth straight month in January, when Gallup's Economic Confidence Index reached -27 -- it's highest point since May 2011.
Moreover, an analysis of President Obama's job performance by Gallup found that his approval ratings surpassed 50 percent in 10 states and Washington, D.C., in 2011, while his average approval came out to 44 percent. Still, a Gallup Daily Tracking report from Wednesday recorded Obama's approval rating at 49 percent, indicating his support may be growing as the 2012 presidential election approaches.
Congress' approval rating may be grimly low, but other organizations have recorded even smaller numbers. For instance, an October CBS News/New York Times poll reported just under nine percent of Americans approved of the legislative body.
Even if they are re-elected, a December poll from The Hill found that Americans believe congressional lawmakers receive far too many benefits for the work that they do. Sixty-four respondents said the $174,000 base salary for members of Congress should be lowered, while 69 percent said members' pensions should be discontinued and 64 percent said they should be required to work more days each year.