Do-Nothing Congress? Americans Think Congress Passes Too Many Laws, Wrong Kinds of Legislation


This Congress has frequently been called a do-nothing Congress, but this may not necessarily be a bad thing. The latest Reason-Rupe poll asked Americans if they agree or disagree that "Congress passes too few laws." Just 34 percent said Congress passes too few laws.

Asked if "Congress passes too many laws," 56 percent of Americans said Congress passes too many laws, while 40 percent disagreed.

When Congress does take action, Americans don't like the resulting laws. Over two-thirds, 67 percent, said Congress passes "the wrong kinds of laws."  

Still, despite their disappointment in the volume and types of legislation Congress passes, the public wants lawmakers to get somethingdone.   Sixty-seven percent of Americans told Reason-Rupe they want members of Congress to "work together and compromise more, even if I do not like the resulting laws."

Just 28 percent said they'd prefer to have "partisan gridlock blocking legislation than for them to pass laws I do not like."

A notable partisan difference exists on this question. Eighty percent of Democrats said they want compromise in Congress, even if it means passing legislation they do not like, compared to 60 percent of Republicans.  A smaller number, 53 percent, of independents said they want compromise. 

Meanwhile 35 percent of independents, 37 percent of Republicans, and only 17 percent of Democrats said they would rather have gridlock than laws they do not like.

Tea party supporters were twice as likely as those who do not support the movement to prefer gridlock to passing laws they do not like (43 percent to 22 percent). Nevertheless, even a majority of tea partiers (53 percent) favor Congressional compromise to gridlock. Within the Republican coalition, there is a considerable difference between tea partiers and Republicans who do not identify with the movement. Sixty-nine percent of non-tea party Republicans favor compromise even if they do not like the resulting laws, sixteen points higher than tea partiers. Different priorities regarding compromise and sticking to principles in part helps explain the ongoing intra-partisan turmoil occurring within the Republican Party.

Americans overwhelmingly disapprove of the job Congress is doing, and the 22 percent who do approve of Congress's job performance in general are still critical of their legislative abilities--44 percent say Congress passes too many laws and half, fifty one percent, think they pass the wrong type.  

Congressional approval is still low, 22 percent, but has increased six points since the May Reason-Rupe poll


Nationwide telephone poll conducted September 4-8 2013 interviewed 1013 adults on both mobile (509) and landline (504) phones, with a margin of error +/- 3.7%. Columns may not add up to 100% due to rounding. Full poll results found here. Full methodology can be found here.