A record 84 percent of Americans disapprove of the job Congress is doing, with almost two-thirds saying they “disapprove strongly,” according to a recent Washington Post-ABC News poll. Only 13 percent of Americans approve of the 112th Congress’s first year.
“The numbers can’t get much lower,” said Paul Beck, professor of political science at Ohio State.
The previous lowest period was in the late 1940s with President Harry S. Truman and the “Do-Nothing Congress,” Beck said.
Representatives from Ohio did not return The Lantern’s request for comment. The Lantern attempted to contact Sens. Rob Portman and Sherrod Brown, along with Rep. Steve Stivers.
“The public’s getting frustrated,” said Erik Nisbet, assistant professor of communications at OSU. Nisbet said people “feel there’s been a lot of gridlock” in Congress.
Democrats and Republicans argued last year over the country’s debt and the annual budget deficit, culminating in an unpopular climax when President Barack Obama raised the debt ceiling. The highly unpopular Stop Online Piracy and PROTECT IP acts (SOPA and PIPA, respectively) were also introduced in 2011.
Brian Sommers, a fifth-year in computer and information science and psychology, referred to the naming of the bills as “propaganda-like,” referring to the “Stop Online Piracy Act that wouldn’t stop online piracy.”
Students referred to the influence of lobbyists as one of their biggest complaints.
Adam Tuttle, a fourth-year in psychology, said Congress “thinks about business too much and not enough about the individual person.”
“There seems to be a thing based more on who has the money than what their constituents want,” Sommers said.
Beck referred to lobbyists as a “modern fact of life” and agreed the industry is more powerful in Congress than an individual. People have to organize to match lobbyists, said Beck.
When taken separately, congressional Democrats have a 33 percent approval rate, while Republicans have a 21 percent approval rating, according to the poll.
The problem is more on the Republicans halting Congress, Beck said. He said they want to deprive Democrats of any appearance of success.
“They’re focused on the 2012 election,” he said.
In a 2010 interview with “National Journal Magazine,” Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said, “the single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”
Beck called this strategy “counter-productive” to government.
Despite the disapproval, Americans, more typically than not, are negative about Congress as a whole, but positive about their representative, Beck said.
Eighty-seven percent of incumbents were re-elected in 2010 despite a 72 percent congressional disapproval rate in the Washington Post-ABC News poll.
“It is dysfunctional,” Beck said. “The major reason is the partisan fighting. It seems like really neither party is willing to compromise.”
When asked what congressional decisions they approved of from 2011, neither Sommers nor Tuttle could come up with anything.
“It’s easy to find problems,” Beck said.