In the Polls: Congress

In this new feature I’ll break down public opinion polls to see how informed people are and where democracy stands.  Thanks to Gallup for this week’s statistics.

There’s no need to be surprised when I tell you that Congress is not doing well in the polls.  Historically people are never too enthralled with the legislative branch, but it’s been particularly bad lately in wake of all of the wrangling over the debt ceiling and deficit.  The nation was nearly brought to default back in August and now the special committee to cut the deficit is going nowhere.  Mostly because of Republican refusal to participate in governing, partisan rancor has completely incapacitated Congress.

Consequently the popularity of individual politicians, which is traditionally quite high is plummeting.  Now a majority of Americans surveyed have little confidence in their elected officials.  This is not surprising considering Republicans have steadfastly refused to participate in any sort of responsible governance, instead focusing on winning elections at the expense of actually doing their jobs.  Meanwhile Democrats can’t be happy as their representatives have been walked over constantly, despite controlling the Senate.  In their defense it doesn’t help that Republicans have taken the filibuster to absurd proportions.

It’s obvious Republicans are to blame since Conservatives don’t seem to believe in compromise.  Never mind that it is the foundation of our political system.  Of course, the Tea Party doesn’t believe in compromise because they don’t believe in government.

Both Democrats and Independents  support compromise by a wide margin, but in the face of ceaseless Republican opposition they’re damned if they do, damned if they don’t.  If Democrats don’t compromise absolutely nothing gets done, with possible voter retribution.  This is exactly what happened last November.  If Democrats do work with the Republicans the deals have become so lopsided the Democratic base gets angry.  Will the party of “no” gain more ground in 2012 or are Independents going to see through this strategy and elect Democrats?  This data suggests the latter.

People are particularly concerned about the ability of Congress to handle domestic problems.  Public faith has hit historic lows as both parties seems completely incapable of finding a way to handle the deficit.  Here both sides are at fault as Democrats don’t want to do anything serious about Medicare and Republicans are strident about tax hikes.

I’m a little surprised about how pessimistic Americans are about international issues too.  Then again I guess two decade long wars will do that.

Republican or Democrat, this gridlock is obviously doing little good for the country.  The strategy may have worked for Republicans in 2010, but the public is no longer amused.   Overall I agree with the public assessment from both sides that the system isn’t working.  It will be very interesting to see what impact this will have on Independents and the upcoming election season.