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Loss of support among Republicans drives U.S. Congress approval down to 20%

Staff Writer |
Congressional job approval declined to 20% in April, eight points lower than the seven-year high reached in February after Donald Trump's presidential inauguration.

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The drop was driven mainly by a loss of support among Republicans, whose approval fell from 50% two months ago to 31% in April.

Even with the drop in approval, the current percentage of Republicans who approve of Congress is still higher than at any point from September 2007 to February of this year.

Republicans - whose party controls both the Senate and the House of Representatives - remain more likely than Democrats to approve of Congress, but the gap between the two parties has diminished from 39 percentage points in February to 21 points now.

Democrats generally had been more likely than Republicans to approve of Congress after 2007, when the Democratic Party took control of the House and Senate.

Democrats tended to be more supportive even after the GOP regained control of the House in 2011 and the Senate in 2015, perhaps because Barack Obama was still president and the GOP majority was able to accomplish little of their agenda.

The current drop in support among Republicans could be tied to failure by party leaders to fulfill campaign pledges on major pieces of legislation such as tax reform and healthcare.

By far the most prominent failure occurred last month when House Speaker Paul Ryan could not unite the different factions within Republican ranks to pass a bill replacing the landmark Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

Americans typically do not have a high opinion of Congress. Gallup has measured approval of Congress 286 times over the past 43 years, and a majority approved only 22 times, with an average approval over time of 30%.

The only times a majority approved were between 1998 and 2003 - a period of economic prosperity followed by a surge in patriotism and trust in government after the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the invasion of Iraq.

However, even during the periods of negativity from 1974 to 2006, approval of Congress seldom was 20% or lower.

During that time, yearly averages for approval fell below 20% only twice - in 1979, a year marked by gasoline shortages, and 1992, a year of severe economic pessimism.

Since the financial crisis in 2008, however, the annual averages have been below 20% every year but 2009, when Obama's inauguration lifted congressional approval above 30% for several months.

The all-time low point came in November 2013, when approval fell to 9% after a stalemate in Congress led to a complete shutdown of the federal government.

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