CONGRESS GETS APPROVAL BOOST…. Republicans have spent quite a bit of time lately criticizing Congress. By now, the arguments are probably familiar: the Democratic leadership hasn’t been “bipartisan” enough. They completed a stimulus package behind closed doors. They passed a package filled with pork and radical policy ideas.

With all of this in mind, I can only imagine how annoyed GOP leaders will be with the new Gallup poll.

Congressional approval ratings have been pretty abysmal for a while, but with the economic recovery package passing, Gallup found “a sharp 12 percentage-point increase from last month, rising from 19% to 31%.” While 31% approval for the institution is still low — along the lines of Bush-Cheney levels of popularity — the 12-point boost gives Congress its best rating in nearly two years.

This has to be the opposite of what Republicans were hoping for. As Greg Sargent noted, “These numbers also should make one question whether the GOP Congressional leadership’s strategy is working.”

Indeed, to hear the GOP leaders tell it, a public backlash against Congress for its recent efforts was inevitable. Just the opposite has happened, at least for now.

I should add, in case there’s any doubt, that the increase in support is not evidence of public approval of unanimous Republican opposition to the economic recovery plan. The poll bump came as a result of self-identified Democrats and Independents expressing new-found support, while Republicans are “now less likely to approve of Congress than they were in January.”

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.