Disgusted with a U.S. debt deal battle that had the nation teetering on the edge of default, Americans registered their highest ever disapproval rating for Congress and said the focus needs to shift from deficit reduction to generating jobs.
A New York Times/CBS News Poll found that 82 percent of Americans disapprove of the way Congress has been handling its job, the highest level since the poll began in 1977. More than four in five said the debt talks put scoring political points above helping the country, and nearly three quarters said the spectacle had diminished America's image.
While neither party received high marks, Republicans fared worse. 72 percent disapproved of the way Republicans in Congress handled the negotiations, with a majority of those polled criticizing Republicans for appearing unwilling to compromise, while 66 percent disapproved of the way Democrats in Congress handled negotiations.
"I'm real disappointed in Congress," Ron Raggio, 54, a florist from Vicksburg, Miss., told The New York Times in a follow-up interview. "They can't sit down and agree about what's best for America. It's all politics."
The poll also signals a potential disconnect between a Congress that is obsessively focused on cutting spending and an American public desperate for some economic relief. By a margin of more than two to one, respondents said that creating jobs should take precedence over spending cuts.
"Unless you have working people you don't have revenue from taxes," said Stanley Oland, 62, a Republican from Kalispell, Mont. "If you cut spending, jobs will be eliminated and you won't get any revenue. Every dollar spent creates jobs."
When it came to President Barack Obama, the country was evenly divided, with 47 percent disapproving of his leadership during the debt talks and 46 percent approving. But they trusted him more than Congressional Republicans to make wise economic decisions, by a wide margin of 47 percent to 33 percent.
That is likely a partial reflection of rising frustration with the Tea Party, whose steadfast rejection of compromise amounted to a small insurrection against Republican leadership. The Tea Party is now viewed unfavorably by 40 percent of the public and favorably by just 20 percent, and the share of Americans who think the Tea Party has too much influence on the Republican Party, rose sharply to 43 percent, up from 27 percent in mid-April.