An ‘unprecedented level of public disgust’

The conservative Washington Times published an interesting analysis this week, concluding that this Congress has “set a record for legislative futility by accomplishing less in 2011 than any other year in history.”

It’s not surprising, then, that public is not at all pleased.

Lawmakers will return to Washington on Tuesday to begin an election-year work session with low expectations for any significant legislative action, while also receiving low approval ratings for themselves.

A new Washington Post-ABC News poll shows a new high — 84 percent of Americans — disapproving of the job Congress is doing, with almost two-thirds saying they “disapprove strongly.” Just 13 percent of Americans approve of how things are going after the 112th Congress’s first year of action, solidifying an unprecedented level of public disgust that has both sides worried about their positions less than 10 months before voters decide their fates.

Wait, there’s more.

Only 11% of Americans approve of how Congress is handling its job, according to a new CNN/ORC International poll released Monday.

That’s a new record for this measure on a CNN survey; the previous all-time low approval rating for Congress was 14%, set in August, at the very end of the debt ceiling debate which resulted in an unpopular agreement between Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill. The poll indicates that 86% say they disapprove of how Congress is handling its duties.

“Republicans and Democrats can’t agree on much, but they both agree that Congress is doing a lousy job,” says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.

There’s ample polling evidence to suggest that while Congress, as an institution, has never been popular, we’re currently suffering through the least popular Congress ever.

It’s certainly understandable that voters were frustrated going into the 2010 midterms, and hoped conditions would improve just as soon as they elected dozens of unhinged, right-wing Republican lawmakers. But since that time, every major pollster has seen Congress’ approval rating drop to levels unseen since the dawn of modern polling.

It’s a case of buyers’ remorse on a rather grand scale.

It’d be fairly easy for Congress to improve its reputation — it could, for example, pass some bills that enjoy broad national support — but so long as there’s a Republican majority in the House, that’s not an option.

And so the question isn’t when Congress will become more popular, but rather, how low can it go?