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« Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.) Retiring | Blog Home Page | The Week Ahead: Olympic Recess »

Trust In Government at Historic Low

Could Washington be any less popular? Not really, according to recent polling. Public approval for Congress and the political parties are at historic lows, while President Obama's approval rating has been in decline for the past nine months.

A New York Times-CBS News survey released last night reported a 15 percent approval rating for Congress. "Most Americans are now dissatisfied or even angry with government - and much of that frustration is directed at Congress," the poll's press release stated. "Levels of distrust and cynicism about government are at or near 15-year highs."

In Gallup's polling, congressional approval is down to 18 percent -- a point reached just twice in the past 36 years. The all-time low, 14 percent, came less than two years ago. The demographics most responsible for the decline in approval have been liberals and Democrats -- the party in control of Washington.

The Washington Post-ABC News poll out this week found 26 percent approving of Congress, which -- other than a mid-2008 dip -- was the lowest it's been since 1994, when Democrats lost the majority.

In the last three Post-ABC surveys in which the question was asked, at least 17 percent of voters have said they don't trust either party to cope with the country's problems over the next few years. Until September, party distrust had only climbed as high as 16 percent once -- in February 1994. And in November 1994, just 37 percent said they were inclined to re-elect their representative to Congress -- 36 percent say the same now.

Further evidence of the distrust in Washington came in a Quinnipiac University survey released Thursday. Just 28 percent said they approve of the way either party in Congress is handling its job, and two-thirds blamed both parties equally for the legislative gridlock in Washington. Meanwhile, 18 percent said they trust the federal government to do what is right at least most of the time, including only 2 percent who trust government "almost all the time."

The Post-ABC poll found the GOP leading the congressional generic ballot vote by 3 points, and Republicans lead the RCP Average by the same margin. With unemployment near 10 percent and support for Congress as low as it is, it's not surprising that Republicans -- the party out of power -- are expected to have a good electoral year.

With more than 30 incumbents in the House not running for re-election and several open Senate seats, the public were already going to see many fresh faces in Washington next year. The level of distrust for government, though, portends even more new members will be heading to the nation's capital in 2011.