Watch CBSN Live

Poll: Disapproval of Congress hits all-time high

Table - Congress Rating

CBS News Poll analysis by the CBS News Polling Unit: Sarah Dutton, Jennifer De Pinto, Fred Backus and Anthony Salvanto.

Americans have looked disapprovingly at their representatives in Congress for decades. But it's never been this bad.

In the wake of the hard-fought debt limit debate, a new CBS News/New York Times poll finds that 82 percent of Americans disapprove of the way Congress is doing its job - the highest disapproval rating since polling began in 1977. Just 14 percent approve of Congress' performance.

The uptick in frustration comes after Congress narrowly avoided an economic catastrophe of its own making by failing to hammer out a deal to raise the nation's $14.3 trillion debt limit until the deadline for action. And neither side was happy with the outcome: Conservatives said the final deal, which is projected to cut around $2.5 trillion over ten years from a projected $24 trillion debt, didn't go far enough; liberals complained that the initial deficit reduction came entirely in the form of spending cuts, not revenue increases as Democrats initially demanded.

Meanwhile, the stock market has plummeted in the wake of the deal, dropping more than 500 points Thursday


The survey, taken on August 2nd and 3rd - immediately after the deal was reached - found Americans more frustrated with congressional Republicans than their Democratic counterparts when it came to the negotiations.

That's not to say congressional Democrats have much to crow about. Sixty-six percent of Americans disapprove of their handling of the debt ceiling debate; just 28 percent approve.

But Republicans fare worse: Seventy-two percent of Americans disapprove of their performance during the debt ceiling debate, while just 21 percent approve.

And Republicans get most of the blame for the standoff. Forty-seven percent blame Republicans in Congress, while 29 percent blame President Obama and congressional Democrats; 20 percent say both are to blame.

A majority of Americans - 52 percent - says Republicans in Congress compromised too little in the debate. Fewer - 34 percent - say Democrats, including President Obama, compromised too little. Republicans were more likely to think members of their party compromised too little (34 percent) than to say they compromised too much (26 percent).

By contrast, Democrats were more likely to think members of their party compromised too much (41 percent) rather than too little (20 percent). Overall, 26 percent say Democrats compromised too much in the negotiations; just 15 percent say the same of Republicans

Table - Debt Ceiling Dabate

Americans overwhelmingly say the debate was more about politics than policy. Just 14 percent said the debt ceiling disagreement was mostly about doing what was best for the country; 82 percent said it was about gaining political advantage. Large majorities of Republicans, Democrats and independents agree the debate was grounded in political considerations.

Americans see Mr. Obama more positively than members of Congress when it comes to handling the debt ceiling debate, though Americans are split. Forty-six percent approve of his handling of the situation, while 47 percent disapprove. Forty-nine percent say he showed strong leadership in the debate, while 48 percent say he did not.

Overall, Mr. Obama's approval rating stands at 48 percent, largely unchanged from CBS News findings throughout the year. Forty-seven percent disapprove of his performance.

As for House Speaker John Boehner, perhaps the most prominent Republican in Congress? His disapproval rating has risen from 40 percent in April to 57 percent in the new survey. Thirty percent approve of his performance on the job.

Dissatisfaction, Anger toward Washington

Eighty-four percent of Americans are either dissatisfied (56 percent) or angry (28 percent) with Washington, a record high in CBS News/New York Times polling. Only 14 percent are satisfied with Washington, and just one percent is enthusiastic.

On the question of whether or not most members of Congress deserve to be reelected, three in four Americans say no. Two in three say they are pessimistic about Congress' ability to deal with issues in the wake of the debt ceiling debate.

Asked to survey the economy, 86 percent characterized it negatively - the highest number in two years. Only 12 percent characterized the economy positively. Asked who they trust more to guide the economy, 47 percent say Mr. Obama, while 33 percent say congressional Republicans. Fourteen percent say neither.

In regard to whether creating jobs or cutting government spending should be a higher priority, Americans overwhelmingly pointed to jobs. Sixty-two percent said creating jobs should be the higher priority for the nation, including majorities of Democrats and independents and 42 percent of Republicans; just 29 percent said America should prioritize cutting spending. 

More from the poll:
Americans divided on debt limit deal

Read the full poll (PDF)

This poll was conducted by telephone on August 2-3, 2011 among 960 adults nationwide who were first interviewed in two polls: a CBS News/New York Times Poll conducted June 24-28, 2011 and a CBS News Poll conducted July 15-17, 2011. Phone numbers were dialed from 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.
View CBS News In