It seems there are quite a few headlines today about President Obama’s approval rating slipping, and while it’s obvious his support dipped a bit from its post-inaugural highs, the president is still in decent shape. The new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll has Obama’s overall approval at 45%, though Gallup has him at 46%, and the latest ABC/Washington Post poll has the president at 49%. These aren’t great numbers, but they’re not necessarily evidence of a systemic problem, either.
That said, if the political world is interested in an institution with weak public standing, I might recommend the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C.
The new NBC/WSJ results show Congress’ approval rating at 12%, with 83% disapproving. When was the last time support for Congress was this awful? NBC/WSJ have been doing national polls for about two decades, and it’s never been this bad.
Given that Obama’s support is still lukewarm, and he’ll never be on the ballot again, I’d argue that Congress’ woeful approval rating is significantly more important.
Indeed, this number could get considerably worse if congressional Republicans kill immigration reform, force a debt ceiling crisis, and threaten a government shutdown.
Indeed, the closer one looks at the poll, the worse things appear for the legislative branch. Obama’s personal favorability is 48%, while for House Speaker John Boehner, it’s 18%. Only 22% believe congressional Republicans emphasize unifying the country, while 67% believe they prioritize partisanship. A 56% majority believe GOP lawmakers are “too inflexible” when dealing with the White House.
And a 51% majority wants Republicans to stop holding votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
As a practical matter, if GOP lawmakers wanted to be more popular, it’d be pretty easy – they could, in theory, pass a popular immigration-reform bill, turn off the deliberately harmful sequester, pass a measure to reduce gun violence, maybe consider a bill or two that creates jobs, or compromise on a budget plan.
Or they can keep trying to take health care benefits away, while threatening to crash the economy on purpose. Which do you suppose they’ll choose?