Congress

Bush's Approval Ratings in Crapper; Congress's Already in the Septic Tank

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Don Surber links to new polls on approval ratings for President Bush and Congress, a.k.a. Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea.

Zogby finds that Bush's abysmal thumbs-up ratings have stabilized at around a puny 34 percent (with a 66 percent negative; totals don't add up to 100 due to rounding and extreme displeasure[*]). That's up from a low of 30 percent in December 2006.

Arguably more impressive is the craptacularly low approval rating of Congress:

While Bush's job approval rating has stabilized, opinion of the work Congress is doing continues to plummet. The Zogby poll shows just 14% give Congress positive marks, while 83% give it negative marks - this in the wake of an acrimonious scrimmage over immigration reform that failed to pass muster in the Senate and died, experts have said, until after the 2008 presidential election….

The Democratic Congress gets poor marks across the ideological spectrum - just 21% of liberals and 10% of the very liberal give it positive marks, while 14% of conservatives and 14% of the very conservative give it positive ratings. Among Democrats, just 19% give Congress positive marks, compared to 13% of Republicans and 8% of political independents.

By way of comparison, the Republican Congress had a 23% positive job approval rating last October, just a week before voters tossed the GOP out of their leadership posts in both houses.

One in four likely voters (25%) said they think the nation is headed in the right direction, while 64% said they think things are off on the wrong track….

More here.

As Surber notes, "It took 12 years for Republicans to drop to 23%. Dems already are down to 14%. That means even Mom is starting to wonder about you. 14% job approval. Nixon did better. On the day he left office!"

[*]: As a commenter below notes, totals do add up to 100! D'oh.

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  1. It’s easy to be negative about an abstract entity such as “congress”. I’d bet no individual congress critter actually has approval ratings as low as the president. Or perhaps people just really hate colelctivism.

  2. Republicans don’t approve of congress because Republicans are now in the minority. Democrats and independents expected the Democrats in congress to end the war.

  3. There’s a problem with Zogby’s formulation “It took 12 years for Republicans to drop to 23%. Dems already are down to 14%.”

    The Congress was running 20 points higher than the president when they passed the funds cutoff bill in March – the one blocked by the Republicans. Congress’s subsequent approval of the Republican “stay the course” funding bill dropped their ratings into the crapper.

    The 06 Republican Congress was unpopular because of what they did, and it led the country to toss them out on their ear. The 07 Congress is unpopular because the minority Republicans are obstructing the Democrats’ efforts to end the war. They don’t want Congress to be less Democratic and more Republican; they are frustrated that the Republicans are still able to block the Democrats’ efforts.

  4. “at around a puny 34 percent (with a 66 percent negative; totals don’t add up to 100 due to rounding and extreme displeasure).”

    Actually isn’t 34 + 66 100?

  5. Zogby finds that Bush’s abysmal thumbs-up ratings have stabilized at around a puny 34 percent (with a 66 percent negative; totals don’t add up to 100 due to rounding and extreme displeasure).

    I can’t help myself; 34 and 66 do in fact add up to 100.

  6. National polls on Congress are essentially meaningless. Ted Stevens (AK), Vitters (La) and Robert Byrd (WVa) may have lower popularity than Dick Cheney, but the voters of Alaska and West Virginia will probably return them for another 6 years.

  7. Doh! Not only am I a compulsive geek, I’m a second rate geek.

  8. When everybody started turning on Bush is when I started to warm on him a little. I still disagree with a lot of his policies, but the fact that every hates him to the degree they hate them seems a tad extreme. To me, he comes off as a character straight from a Frank Miller comic book; an aging stubborn fool who keeps fighting even though half the world is against him, and even though half the world are probally right in their fight against him.

  9. Apples to oranges. Congress as an institution has never exceeded 40% approval because people like their own rep and think all the others are crooks. They may be right but it does make comparing the approval ratings of a mixed entity like Congress against that of an individual generally useless.

  10. Today’s political climate adds to this. The day someone says they like the Democrats or the Republicans is the day half the people around them think (and say) they are an idiot. It is easier to just hate everybody.

  11. Oh please joe,

    The democrats could end the war if they really want to by merely voting against any bill that funds it…

    They could even pass a law that repeals the authorization to use military force.

    No, they want the benefits of the war (pork and fat contracts for the military-industrial complex) while seeming to oppose it.

  12. Polls are useful only to pollsters and the mentally deficient, but that 14% Dem approval rating is entertaining nevertheless.

    I wonder how Dems and Repubs would answer this question: Who would you rather see performing a drunken lap dance? A) Nancy Pelosi, B) Olympia Snow, C) Barbara Boxer

  13. “They don’t want Congress to be less Democratic and more Republican; they are frustrated that the Republicans are still able to block the Democrats’ efforts.”

    But the Democrats are in the majority. It’s not just Republicans that voted to continue funding the war. You can’t blame it only on the Republicans.

  14. tarran,

    They could cut off funding if they wanted, but that genuinely would prevent equipment from getting to already-deployed troops. They need to pass something.

    The solution is going to be to mandate an end to the war in the Defense Authorization Bill. The Republicans can’t fillibuster that, and the President can’t veto it.

  15. “…that 14% Dem approval rating…” doesn’t exist, ed. Read a little closer – that is the rating for Congress as a whole, which, sadly, still does include almost 50% Republicans.

  16. Rattelesnake Jake,

    But the Democrats are in the majority.

    Which is why war-ending bills keep passing the House, but die in the Senate, or get vetoed and the vetos upheld – because the Senate does not operate by majority rule.

  17. The democrats could end the war if they really want to by merely voting against any bill that funds it…

    They could even pass a law that repeals the authorization to use military force.

    Not without 60 votes in the Senate.

  18. “No, they want the benefits of the war (pork and fat contracts for the military-industrial complex) while seeming to oppose it.”

    Plus they don’t want to be accused of not supporting the troops. As far as I’m concerned, they’re not supporting the troops when they keep them in danger in a war that we had no business in.

  19. I will just note that Zogby was the guy who declared that Kerry would win by an electoral college landslide on election day in 2004.

  20. “They could cut off funding if they wanted, but that genuinely would prevent equipment from getting to already-deployed troops.”

    If funds are cut off, we have no other alternative but to bring them home.

  21. I’ll answer my own poll:
    C) Barbara Boxer.
    She’s a saucy wench.

  22. The democrats could end the war if they really want to by merely voting against any bill that funds it…

    This they could do…

    They could even pass a law that repeals the authorization to use military force.

    This they could not because of the filibuster. However, the situation brings two funnies to my brain:

    1. I bet the GOP is glad it didn’t exercise the “Nuclear option” and only require 51 votes for cloture. This was discussed only a few years ago.

    2. It’s interesting to see the Dems complaining about the same thing they were doing a few years ago.

    It’s hard enough to tell the two parties apart as it is. Now they have to start parroting each other? Fuck!

  23. Rattlesnake Jake,

    Fortunately, I think the argument that “support the troops” means continuing the war is just about dead. The Democrats can, and have, voted to bring the troops home several times already.

    But cutting off funds has other consequences besides forcing an eventual end to the war. Everyone realizes that it is going to take months to withdraw from Iraq, and failing to fund them during that period would be irresponsible. Not to mention, there are specific funding issues, like the provision of better barmor and equipment, that requires new appropriations. The IED-resistant vehicles, for example.

    Refusing to pass an appropriations bill is the nuclear option. If it comes to that, I’d support doing so, but there are still better options short of that available, such as attaching an amendment mandating a withdrawal to the untouchable Defense Appropriations Bill.

  24. Here’s a question for people who take Zogby’s equivalency at face value: Do you think these low poll ratings and the political flack Congressmen are receiving from their constituents will make Democrats more likely to back the leadership on their anti-war votes, or less likely? How about the Republicans – do you think the hits Congress has taken since it sustained Bush’s veto and passed the “benchmarks” funding bill will make Republicans more likely to buck their leadership and vote to end the war (ie, side with the Democrats), or less likely?

    Compare that to the political situation in 2006. Did the political collapse of Congress encourage Republicans to buck their leadership and Democrats to cross the aisle, or did it do the opposite?

  25. Poor joe.
    His Dream Congress has turned out to be the equivalent of an ugly blind date.

  26. According to this, polls still show a higher favorability rating for Democrats over Republicans: http://www.pollingreport.com/institut2.htm#Democrats

    So, at the risk of over-simplifying, it may well be that the public’s low ratings for congress do (as Joe suggests) reflect their opinion of the Republican minority more than the Democratic majority. Whether or not this is logical.

  27. So, basically, ed’s got nothing.

    As usual.

  28. Actually, ed, it’s turned out to be a dinner at a great restaurant with a beautiful woman with a small dress and an oral fixation.

    And her ugly, retarded little brother.

  29. I’M NOT THAT UGLY. I’M SPECIAL.

    DEMAND KURV!!!!!

  30. blockquote>They could cut off funding if they wanted, but that genuinely would prevent equipment from getting to already-deployed troops.

    Since the next six to eight months’ worth of munitions and equipment are already paid for, this is a disingenous argument. Hell, a competent general could stretch it out to a year if they moved everything to a port near Basra, set up a perimeter and then concentrated on protecting ships evacuating equipment.

    If the U.S. asked the Saudis, the Iranians, or the Turks very nicely they may even allow the U.S. to evacuate through their territory, and the munitions expenditure would go to 0.

  31. tarran,

    I saw an estimate in Time magazine, which is obviously right about everything ;-), of two years to get all of our stuff out.

    It would be possible, say if we were actually retreating under fire to save the force, to get everybody inside a coastal perimeter within a few weeks, but that’s not the type of withdrawal we’re talking about.

  32. 1. I bet the GOP is glad it didn’t exercise the “Nuclear option” and only require 51 votes for cloture. This was discussed only a few years ago.

    Someone correct me if I am wrong, but the “nuclear option”, as the GOP was threatening to do, would only have applied to nomination proceedings and not legislation.

    2. It’s interesting to see the Dems complaining about the same thing they were doing a few years ago.

    I don’t remember the Dems filibustering anywhere near as much as the GOP has been filibustering so far what the Dems have tried to pass. In fact, the majority of filibusters the dems tried failed because many Dems crossed over and voted with the GOP.

    Now the minority party hardly crosses over (except for maybe Gordon Smith and Olympia Snow, both of whom will most likely get ousted in ’08)

    What I find ironic is the fact that while the GOP was throwing the obstructionist label at the minority (and the press dutifully repeated it without any critical analysis — because stenography apparently is a major role of the modern press), they have no qualms about obstruct anything they can in any way they can. And the press refuses to even mention the word filubuster in the same sentence as GOP.

    Josh Marshall has some examples. In some cases the press is reporting that the DEMS are filibustering the Levin Reed amendment.

  33. More stellar coverage of Levin-Reed amendment fight by the press — This courtesy of Lyndsey Layton at the Wash. Post:

    Crestwood, N.Y.: Lyndsey, I like this Harry Reid strategy of late night theater to break the filibuster, because it underlines how many of the GOP Senators are making touchy-feely speeches about opposing the war, but refusing to support any real efforts to end it. I think the next step should be to hold up votes on almost anything Bush wants a vote on, starting with his judicial nominees. I know that this back-fired on Newt Gingrich in the ’90s when he tried it on Clinton, but can anybody remember what noble cause Gingrich was fighting for back then? Ending this war is of a different order of magnitude, and I think the voters appreciate the Dems finally, finally taking a strong stand on something instead of wringing their hands about the iniquities of the senatorial system. Your take?

    Lyndsey Layton: Hi Crestwood,

    I’m not as certain. Recent polls show Americans are frustrated with this Congress and its inability to pass legislation. If the Democrats start blocking every initiative – even in the name of a cause that 70 percent of Americans support – it’ll be hard to peel off the obstructionist label. As it is, the party is worried that it won’t have enough of a legislative record to tout during the ’08 campaigns.

    Republicans blocking votes to end a war that 65%+ of disapprove of — not obstructionists.

    Dems using their power in the majority to force the minority and the president to change course on the way — obstructionist.

    Nice

  34. ChicagoTom,

    To be precise, the “nuclear option” was to change the Rules of the Senate through a ruling from the Chair supported by a majority vote. The Rules themselves state that they can only be changed with a 60-vote supermajority. The “nuclear option” wasn’t the change itself (doing away with the fillibuster) but the method of making that change.

  35. joe,

    The Dems knew going into the ’06 elections that they weren’t going to have 60 votes in the Senate, and definitely weren’t going to have 2/3 majorities necessary to override Bush vetoes.

    If they had toned down the “elect Democrats so we can end this war now!” rhetoric during the campaign, they might have avoided their current predicament. But they chose to milk the electorate’s desire to get out of Iraq for all it was worth, and now they’re gonna have to sleep in the bed they made.

  36. crimethink,

    What predicament? That the public is seeing them trying to end the war as promised, and being stifled by the Republicans?

    I’ll ask again – do you think that the public’s dissatisfaction with Congress is going to result in more votes from the Democrats’ “End the War” bills, or fewer?

  37. Regardless of any votes, the surge troops rotation will start to end in March. (Unless the length of deployment is changed. Again.)

  38. joe,

    I think the American public is agreeing with Yoda right now: there is no try. Do, or do not.

    Do you remember all those Dem candidates saying, “We’ll try to end the war, but the Republicans will filibuster in the Senate and Bush will veto any bill we pass to bring the troops home. But vote for me anyway!” I don’t remember that either.

    Or, are the Dems having a Condi Rice “We never saw this coming!” moment?

  39. Regardless of any votes, the surge troops rotation will start to end in March. (Unless the length of deployment is changed. Again.)

    How long before we can stop accepting this whole “wait until the troop surge goes into effect” excuse?

    (Not that I accept it now)

  40. How long before we can stop accepting this whole “wait until the troop surge goes into effect” excuse?

    When you lie rotting and stinking in the earth.

  41. Apples to oranges. Congress as an institution has never exceeded 40% approval because people like their own rep and think all the others are crooks. They may be right but it does make comparing the approval ratings of a mixed entity like Congress against that of an individual generally useless.

    Only problem is that every time it gets this low they all get kicked out by the electorate

  42. crimethink,

    I do agee that the Democrats are going to have to force an end to the war, or they will suffer consequences in 2008, in the form of low turnout.

    My point is that their current unpopularity – and they are unpopular, even though less so than the Republicans – is having the strange effect of making it easier for them to pass their agenda on the Iraq War, and that doing so will restore their popularity to where it was back in March.

    I remember lots of Democrats saying “We’re going to oppose George Bush and his war. We’re going to fight to end the war.”

    If the Dems take Republican obstructionism as an excuse to give up the fight, there will be hell to pay for them at the polls – like they did when they passed the “benchmarks” bill.

    But they haven’t to date – what they’ve done is set themselves up to win the fight this fall.

  43. Only problem is that every time it gets this low they all get kicked out by the electorate

    That has historically been true. However, when was the last time that Congress was this unpopular, but the majority party was more popular than the minority?

    This is a rather unique situation.

  44. This is a rather unique situation.

    Libertarians sweep 2008 election!!!

  45. I love how low poll rating for Congress before the last election were a big sign that people where unhappy with Republicans in the majority, but now that Democrats are in the majority the polls are “essentially meaningless.”

  46. But they haven’t to date – what they’ve done is set themselves up to win the fight this fall.

    Assuming they don’t grow a pair pretty soon, the war is going to be ended when enough Republicans decide it’s in their own best interest to desert Bush on the issue. It’s not going to come about because the Dems did anything.

    That’s worth repeating: the Pelosis and Reids have shown that they don’t have the cajones to win this fight. It’s going to be Republicans changing their positions who end the war.

  47. I love how low poll rating for Congress before the last election were a big sign that people where unhappy with Republicans in the majority, but now that Democrats are in the majority the polls are “essentially meaningless.”

    It’s not that they are meaningless. It’s that they don’t prove what people want them to prove.

    The Congress’s approval rating started to tank badly once they were unable to “end the war” or pass effective legislation to change course. The reason for that is GOP obstructionism and the presidential Veto.

    So merely saying “congress is unpopular” doesn’t mean very much against that backdrop. When measured against the fact that Dems are preferred to GOPs overall and Dems have a higher approval rating and are more trusted in areas of National Security — it seems more likely that its the GOP part of the Congress that people are unhappy with.

    An interesting followup would be asking whose Congressional performance they rate higher — Dems or GOPs? Or if they think Congress needs more R’s or more D’s in it.

    Another aspect of the poll numbers may be that many liberals are unhappy with the lack of confrontation and the unwillingness of the Dems to stand strong in “take it or leave it” way when it comes to war funding. That is to allow Bush the money for Iraq only with withdrawl timelines in it. Otherwise give him nothing.

    Liberals may be upset that they aren’t doing that and that may push congress approval rating downward, but they aren’t gonna switch parties and support the war party nor will they (if they care about ending the war) stay at home and risk the war now, war forever party taking over again.

  48. Liberals may be upset that they aren’t doing that and that may push congress approval rating downward, but they aren’t gonna switch parties and support the war party nor will they (if they care about ending the war) stay at home and risk the war now, war forever party taking over again.

    I don’t think liberals are going to desert them, but if they continue to rest on their collective laurels, and use filibusters and vetoes as excuses for inaction, they’re going to have to deal with a lot of pissed off independents.

    It’s also highly unlikely, given the current trend, that the Republicans are going to be running on continuing the war in 2008.

  49. That’s worth repeating: the Pelosis and Reids have shown that they don’t have the cajones to win this fight. It’s going to be Republicans changing their positions who end the war.

    I guess I don’t see what testicular fortitude has anything to do with it. Unless they get veto-proof majorities the war won’t end without cutting funding.

    Granted cutting off funding is an option, and so is repealing the AUMF, but history shows that these things may not be as effective as some people pretend they are:

    From the Boston Globe

    In December 1970, Congress passed historic legislation revoking the 1964 Tonkin Gulf resolution, which had authorized military force in Vietnam, and banning the deployment of ground troops in Cambodia. War opponents hoped Congress was on the verge of forcing a quick end to the bloody quagmire in Indochina.

    “The president, in our judgment, now lacks legitimate authority to keep on prosecuting the war,” said Senator Frank Church , Democrat of Idaho, in a 1971 speech. “Under these circumstances, a great opportunity is presented to Congress — the chance to fill this constitutional vacuum with a disengagement policy that could help unite the country again.”

    War opponents’ hopes were dashed. Despite signing the bills, President Nixon said he had independent authority as commander in chief to keep combat in Vietnam going. For the next two years, Congress failed to agree on further restrictions, and nearly 3,000 more American soldiers died. Nixon finally ended the war on his own terms with a cease – fire agreement in January 1973.

    As for defunding:

    Bush is in a far different political situation than were Nixon in 1971 [when Congress banned ground combat troops from Laos, Thailand and Cambodia], Gerald Ford in 1976 [when Congress banned further covert paramilitary aid to anti-Marxist fighters in Angola], Ronald Reagan in 1983 and 1984 [when Congress imposed deadlines for pulling out of Lebanon], or Bill Clinton in 1993 [when Congress imposed deadlines for pulling out of Somalia].

    In those prior cases, presidents had years of governing ahead of them — or at least believed that they did. But Bush’s presidency will soon be over and Vice President Dick Cheney is not running to replace him. Thus, the White House has less reason to compromise with Congress — or to worry about public opinion polls.

    “No one in that White House is destined for an accountability moment,” said Harvard law professor David Barron . “Under normal circumstances a president would have incentives to bring [a war] to a close — consistent with the wishes of the legislature, but somehow still on his own terms. But there doesn’t seem to be any interest in doing that.”

    Bush’s lame-duck status, Barron said, also may make GOP lawmakers more willing to break with the White House because their political futures are no longer entwined with the president’s.

    Such a dynamic raises the possibility that Congress could pass some kind of war restriction over Bush’s veto — only to see Bush defy the law anyway.

    And remember what Condi said back in Feb:

    Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice urged the Democratic-controlled U.S. Congress not to interfere in the conduct of the Iraq war and suggested President George W. Bush would defy troop withdrawal legislation.

    SO I dunno what “cojones” have to do with anything at this point. It’s very difficult to force the President’s hand — especially one who believes isn’t accountable to Congress and feels he can defy legislation whenever he sees fit (see Signing Statments)

  50. I don’t think liberals are going to desert them, but if they continue to rest on their collective laurels, and use filibusters and vetoes as excuses for inaction, they’re going to have to deal with a lot of pissed off independents.

    crimethink,
    I think you have it backwards. The Dems aren’t resting at all. They keep pushing legislation and they GOP keeps killing and obstructing it or it gets vetoed by the owner of the war. As long as the dems keep trying, I don’t see why independents would be pissed at the Dems.

    In fact, the more the GOP waits and pushes for more stay the course and let the surge continue more and more, the worse off it’s gonna be for them. Any “independent” who is payng attention will know that the problem isn’t the Dems who are trying to work out a solution — it’s the GOP who don’t want any solution other than “clap louder and we will win”

  51. crimethink,

    How does not having the votes to sustain a veto equal a lack of cojones?

    I’m quite sure that, when the entire Democratic caucus is joined by 5-10% of the Republicans in voting to end the war, there will be those who will proclaim that the Republicans ended the war. And there will be those who believe them.

  52. I don’t think anything will get Bush to end the war, and that includes defunding. Bush will keep the troops there despite the lack of money. He’ll juggle funds around at first. Ultimately he’ll allow our troops to go unprotected, underequipped, underfed, etc. Then he’ll blame the Democrats for the ensuing castrophe. He’s that craven.

    He just won’t bring them home.

  53. Then he’ll blame the Democrats for the ensuing catastrophe. He’s that craven.

    Makes me wonder what would happen if bush did pull out….my guess is the even minded and fair democrats would ignore the burning civil war and blood bath that would engulf Iraq afterwards and continue to support Bush’s retreat and in fact even if Bush did announced today most of the troops could not be pulled until well into an election year…but the good an honorable democrats would keep to their support and not use Iraq’s decent into the abyss for political advantage.

  54. Lee,

    If he does that, impeachment & conviction would be a slam dunk. I really don’t think it’ll come to that, though.

    I mean, if he would do that, what’s to say that he won’t try to forcibly hold onto the presidency after 1/20/09?

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