Congress has never been held in very high regard. But new numbers out today suggest a stunning drop in confidence in lawmakers across the board. Among 16 different public institutions surveyed by Gallup—from churches to news organizations—Capitol Hill ranks dead last, below banks and big industry. According to the survey, only 11 percent of Americans have confidence in Congress. The Hill’s collective approval rating usually hovers in the midteens, but over the past year, as lawmakers have taken up controversial issues like health care, bank bailouts, and cap-and-trade, the numbers dropped to a new low.
The American military wins the survey as the most-trusted institution—a title it has held since 1998—but even at 76 percent, it, too, has taken a 6 percent drop since last year. Although that’s nothing compared to the presidency, which fell from 51 to 36 percent. It's a surprising reversal from 2008, when voters had slightly more confidence in Congress but less confidence in the presidency.
With talk about incumbents versus challengers seemingly more prevalent than ever, unhappy voters could reasonably strip Democrats of their majority. The figures indicate that perhaps voters want fewer fights and filibusters and more amenity and action. If that is the case, leaders need not only worry about 2010, but also 2012.
But there is some good news for those outside the Beltway: confidence in Main Street won small business the second-highest ranking this year, with 66 percent. Big business, on the other hand, went the way of HMOs. The two, along with Congress, round out the bottom three.