Americans Hate the Congress, Not the Congressman

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
May 9 2013 1:02 PM

Americans Hate the Congress, Not the Congressman

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The dome of the U.S. Capitol is seen on Capitol Hill August 28, 2012 in Washington, DC.

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

It's common knowledge at this point: Americans don't think very highly of Congress. The legislature's approval rating is currently hovering in the teens in most national polls, only a few ticks up from last year's historical lows. But a new Gallup poll out today offers an interesting, paradoxical twist on those numbers: Turns out, while the vast majority of Americans say they disapprove of the job Congress as a whole is doing, they have surprisingly positive feelings about their own congressional representative.

You can read the full results here, but below you'll find the table that illustrates the point. Keep in mind that Gallup currently pegs Congress' approval rating at 16 percent (up from last year's all-time low of 10 percent but still well below the average of 33 percent the pollsters have found over the past four decades).

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Respondents were asked the general question of: "Do you approve or disapprove of the way the representative from your congressional district is handling his or her job?" As you can see, while the percentage of negative reactions is higher than it's ever been since the pollsters started asking the question, the generic congressmen and congresswomen still boast a net-positive approval rating:

Screen shot 2013-05-09 at 12.42.34 PM

Perhaps even more interesting is the a second data set. The Gallup pollsters asked a different set of respondents whether they knew the name of their congressional representative. Those who answered correctly were even more likely to give their congressman/woman a passing grade.

Screen shot 2013-05-09 at 12.42.42 PM

That, as the pollsters explain, is a large reason why Americans can hate Congress so much yet still turn up at the polls every two years to reelect a vast majority—90 percent in 2012, according to the Center for Responsive Politics—of congressional lawmakers.

***Follow @JoshVoorhees and the rest of the @slatest team on Twitter.***

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. 

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