In his biography of American iconoclast Mark Twain, Albert Bigelow Paine quotes the noted author referring to the U.S. Congress in a less-than-congenial manner: “Suppose you were an idiot, and suppose you were a member of Congress; but I repeat myself,” he famously said.
No matter how much times have changed since Twain’s death in 1910, there’s one thing that remains a seeming constant in the U.S.: then and now, we hate our political class. But more than at any point in history, a new Gallup poll out this week shows more Americans today are dissatisfied with Congress than ever before.
The governing body is now set to end 2011 with the lowest one-time approval rating in its history: 11 percent. Their annual average for 2011 came to a whopping 17 percent, which is also the lowest ever recorded.
Overall, Gallup found that the nation’s 112th Congress had an 86 percent disapproval rating by the end of December, 2011: yet another record-breaking statistic.
Independent voters were the most dissatisfied, Gallup found, holding Congress in such contempt that it earned just 7 percent approval. Republicans and Democrats were both similarly cynical, with just 14 percent of Democrats approving of Congress, and 12 percent of Republicans.
The numbers come at the end of a highly contentious year that saw the government nearly shut down twice when Republicans and Democrats failed to agree on a budget due to squabbles over tax rates for the wealthiest Americans. Most voters want to see top-tier tax rates increase as budgets for things like food stamps and unemployment insurance are cut, but most Republican lawmakers are opposed to that step.
Two in three voters said that incumbents in general should not be reelected, but when it came specifically to their local representative, just 50 percent said they deserve another term. Overall, 33 percent said they did not.
Among independents, it’s even worse: 43 percent agreed their member should be fired, while just 37 percent said they deserve reelection.
Fifty-five percent also agreed that “the political system can work fine, it’s the members that are the problem,” while just 32 percent felt like the system had broken down entirely.
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
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