A new CBS News poll released tonight shows that only three in 10 Americans approve of the way Congress is doing its job. Meanwhile, more than half – 56 percent – disapprove. That's a slight improvement over last month, when 26 percent approved and 63 percent disapproved.
Americans view Republicans and Democrats in Congress differently, however. Half of all Americans have a favorable opinion of the Democrats in Congress, but only 29 percent have a favorable view of Republicans in Congress. Forty percent have a unfavorable view of the Democrats, and 61 percent have a negative opinion of the Republicans.
But positive views of Democrats in Congress have not translated into a positive opinion of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. Thirty-five percent have an unfavorable view of the California Democrat, while 18 percent have a favorable view. Nearly half of all Americans haven't formed an opinion either way.
When it comes to issues, Democrats also have an advantage, according to the poll. Americans prefer the Democratic Party to the Republican Party on a number of key issues, including improving the health care system (65 to 18 percent), ensuring a strong economic recovery (50 to 22 percent), and deciding how the government should spend taxpayers' money (50 to 28 percent). Democrats also have a very slight edge on dealing with terrorism (41 to 39 percent), a traditional strength of Republicans.
The poll also asked Americans which side of the partisan divide – President Obama or Congressional Republicans – was trying harder to reach bipartisan solutions to the nation's economic crisis. By a margin of 42 percent to seven percent, Americans said they see Mr. Obama trying harder to reach out to Republicans than vice-versa. Twenty-six percent see both trying equally, and 18 percent think neither is trying at all.
Finally, the poll found that most Americans (68 percent) continue to view earmarked legislation – often referred to as "pork" – as unacceptable. Twenty-nine percent think the practice of earmarking should be eliminated, up from 23 percent in October 2006. Forty-four percent think the process by which earmarks are introduced to legislation should be changed – something being reviewed by the Obama Administration and some members of Congress – while only 15 percent think the system should be left as it is.
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This poll was conducted among a random sample of 1142 adults nationwide, interviewed by telephone March 12-16, 2009. Phone numbers were dialed from RDD samples of both standard land-lines and cell phones. The error due to sampling for results based on the entire sample could be plus or minus three percentage points. The error for subgroups is higher.
This poll release conforms to the Standards of Disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.