Poll: 70 Percent Angry or Dissatisfied with Washington

Updated 7:30 p.m. ET

A new CBS News/New York Times poll reveals the declining trust in government representatives and the motives of Congressional members.

The majority of Americans —- 70 percent -— are dissatisfied or angry with the way elected officials in Washington handle the business of the people.

The distaste for the way Washington works cut across party lines, with 85 percent of Republicans dissatisfied or angry compared to 53 percent of Democrats and 73 percent of independents.

Among those surveyed, 80 percent said that members of Congress are more interested in pandering to special interest groups than in serving the needs of people who elected them. Only 13 percent believe that Congress represents the interests of the people.

When asked about Congressional job approval, only 15 percent of respondents thought Congress was effective, down 8 percentage points from January and near the low of 12 percent in October 2008, when the economy was on the brink of collapse and the George W. Bush administration was entering its final year in office.

By a lopsided margin and a final rebuke, the CBS News/New York Times polls shows that 81 percent of Americans believe members of Congress don't deserve re-election.

President Obama comes off somewhat unscathed compared to Congress.

While Mr. Obama's approval rating is 46 percent, which matches his low from early January, 57 percent of respondents indicated that he is interested in serving the interests of the American people, compared to 35 percent who said he favored special interest groups.

Forty-five percent of Americans disapprove of the job he is doing – his highest disapproval rating to date.

The majority of those polled -- 62 percent -- believe that he is trying to reach out to Congressional Republicans, versus 32 percent who have the opposite view. Among Republicans, only 29 percent believe the president is trying to reach across the isle and 62 percent believe he is not making the bipartisan effort.

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However, 50 percent said that the president has made little or no progress in changing Washington. As an example of the gridlock in Washington, 56 percent blame both Congress and the president for the failure to pass health care reform legislation.

But, only 5 percent hold Mr. Obama solely responsible for the lack of progress. Additionally, only 7 percent of those queried blame the Obama administration for the state of the economy and budget deficit. The Bush administration and Wall Street, as well as Congress, are blamed for the financial woes.

On health care, the poll also found that Americans are increasingly concerned about the price tag for reform. Fifty-three percent now say that the U.S. cannot afford to fix health care now, up from 42 percent in September. Forty-four percent think health care reform is needed as part of fixing the overall economy.

Lastly, in addition to expressing a general cynicism about government, many Americans are also saying they want a smaller one.

Fifty-nine percent of Americans think the government is doing too many things better left to businesses and individuals, a percentage that has been consistent for many years. Fifty-six percent would choose a smaller government providing fewer services over a bigger government providing more services, up from 48 percent last spring and the highest percentage in more than a decade.

Read the Complete Poll

This poll was conducted among a random sample of 1,084 adults nationwide, interviewed by telephone February 5-10, 2010. Phone numbers were dialed from random digit dial samples of both standard land-line 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.

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    Dan has more than 20 years of journalism experience. He has served as editor in chief of CBSNews.com, CNET News, ZDNet, PC Week, and MacWeek.