Fox News Poll: Americans Take Congress to Task

If members of Congress were up for a job review right now — instead of a year from now — the ranks of the unemployed would swell to an even higher level. Americans place a lot of the blame for conditions in the country on Congress and, because of that, about two-thirds want to “throw them out” of office, according to the latest FOX News poll.

The national telephone poll was conducted for FOX News by Opinion Dynamics Corp. among 900 registered voters from October 27 to October 28, 2009. The poll has a 3-point error margin.

A sizable majority of Americans (64 percent) say the country would be better off by throwing “most” members of Congress out, a jump of 19 percentage points from two years ago. Only about one in five Americans (19 percent) feels the average representative deserves to be re-elected, a seven-point drop from October of 2007. Even half of Democrats take the view that we need to clean house and start over with new people.

When moving from an institutional perspective to a more personal view, a slim 51 percent majority of Americans want to keep their own member of Congress in office.

This phenomenon of “hating” Congress but “loving” one’s congressman is an established trend in politics. However, even in this setting, more people opt for getting rid of their representative today (35 percent) than did two years ago (29 percent).

When assessing blame for current conditions in the country, Americans are far more likely to blame Congress (64 percent) than the president (10 percent), and almost one in five (18 percent) volunteers that both the president and Congress are equally to blame.

Moreover, by a 50 percent to 45 percent margin, Americans think Congress is not working on the issues that are most important to them. On this last measure there is a huge partisan divide, as more than two-thirds of Democrats (67 percent) feel Congress is working on the most important issues, while just over a quarter of Republicans (27 percent) agree.

What are those issues that Congress should be addressing? Health care reform (29 percent) along with taxes and government spending (24 percent) are the clear priorities in people’s minds. While most Democrats (45 percent) opt for health care reform as the top issue, most Republicans (41 percent) choose taxes and government spending, and most independents are almost equally divided between the two issues (25 percent taxes and government spending; 24 percent health care reform).

Americans are a little more positive toward Democrats in Congress than their Republican counterparts, but not by much. Slightly more than one-third (36 percent) approve of the job Democrats are doing, while only 29 percent give the same rating to Republicans on the Hill. Nevertheless, majorities disapprove of the performance of both Democrats (53 percent) and Republicans (59 percent).

A preliminary look at the upcoming 2010 Congressional elections reveals a division in the country, mirrored in trial heat results that give Republicans (40 percent) and Democrats (39 percent) about equal shares of the vote. This is close to the results from mid-October (42 percent Republican; 38 percent Democrat).

Ernie Paicopolos is a Principal at Opinion Dynamics Corporation.

Click here to view the raw data.