Congress is Remarkably Unpopular. Here’s How That Could Change.

By No Labels
March 6, 2018 | Blog

Since the beginning of the year, Congressional approval ratings have registered between 15 and 21 percent, according to polls by Gallup, CNN, Quinnipiac and others collected on PollingReport.com. Disapproval ran from 68 to 81 percent.

It’s been worse—but 15 percent is nothing to brag home about, either. Imagine if only one in five people at your office approved your performance, and most of the rest disapproved. What would happen? You’d likely get a pink slip—or you’d have to change the way you went about your business. Here at No Labels, we think it’s time to change the way Washington works from the inside.

Congressional approval over time

In recent history, Congress has not been particularly popular. According to the polls collected by PollingReport.com, which go back to 2005, the best approval rating that Congress achieved since then was 44 percent. That was in 2007.

Congress has dipped into single digits several times, reaching its low of 9 percent in polls taken in 2011, 2013 and 2014. Overall, the average over the last 18 years was about 22 percent, meaning that about one in five Americans approve of the job Congress is doing.

As you may have guessed, disapproval ratings run similarly. The highest disapproval rating was 87 percent in 2013, the lowest was 44 percent 2007, and the average over 18 years was 70 percent.

New House, new rules

One thing that polls well is bipartisanship—but far from coming together across the aisle, Washington has become more partisan over the years, especially in the House. As the system functions now, the opposition party is all but locked out of the policymaking process. Lawmakers could change this—and perhaps improve their approval ratings—by reforming some of the rules that govern legislative action.

One good start would be to change the process by which the Speaker is selected. Rather than allowing a simple majority of House members to elect the Speaker at the beginning of each Congress (218 of 435 lawmakers), Congressional rules should require a full 60 percent of members to get behind the winning candidate (261 of 435). This would compel the man or woman leading the House to solicit support from members representing both major parties.

That would shift how the House is run, from a system dominated by one party to a system that opens the door to bipartisan cooperation. This concept polls extremely well and has broad support. No Labels will encourage lawmakers in both parties to support this change and others that can make the House more bipartisan and more productive. Whatever the outcome of November’s election, we’ll have a new House next year. New rules would almost certainly make it more popular.

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