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Thursday, May 9, 2013

Americans Dislike Congress But Like Their Own Members of Congress

Although Americans overwhelmingly disapprove of the job Congress in general is doing, voters re-elect most members of Congress in every election. This phenomenon is partly explained by the finding that Americans have significantly more positive views of their own representative than they do of Congress overall.

About half (46%) of Americans say they approve of the job the representative from their own congressional district is doing. This is on the low end of what Gallup has found historically, although it hasn't asked this question often and not since 1992. From 1990-1992, Gallup asked Americans this question eight times, with approval ratings ranging from 49% to 66% and averaging 58%. In a lone 1977 reading, 55% of Americans approved of their congressional representative.

However, the data suggest that even though Americans continue to be more positive toward their own representative than toward Congress as a whole, they are a bit more negative about the former now than they have been in the past.

Gallup asked a different group of respondents a separate version of the "representative from your district" question. These respondents were first asked if they knew the name and party of their representative, and then whether they approved of that representative. Thirty-five percent of all respondents surveyed knew the name of their representative and, of this group, an even higher 62% approved of him or her.

The difference between the 62% approval rating among this group and the 46% among all Americans suggests that those who do not know their representative's name hold him or her in lower regard. Thus, people who don't know the name of their representative may be evaluating that person largely on their generally negative feelings about how the broader institution is doing.