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Congress Approval Rating Slides to Lowest Point in 14 Years

A recent Wall Street Journal poll shows Congress' approval ratings at its lowest point in 14 years. With midterm elections nearing, public disapproval of the GOP-led Congress may have heavy costs for Republican candidates. Two experts discuss the public's views.

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  • MARGARET WARNER:

    Congress has never been wildly popular, but a new Wall Street Journal-NBC News poll out today shows respect for the institution at rock bottom. Only 16 percent of those surveyed approved of the job Congress is doing, tying an all-time low in this poll's 17-year history; 75 percent disapproved.

    When asked to rate the overall performance of this year's Congress in particular, 56 percent graded it below average or one of the worst. And in a troubling sign for Republicans heading into the midterm elections, 52 percent of those polled said they'd prefer a Democrat-controlled Congress; just 37 percent chose the Republicans.

    For more on the dissatisfaction with Congress, the reasons and potential impact, we're joined by Tom Mann, congressional scholar at the Brookings Institution and co-author of the recent book "The Broken Branch: How Congress is Failing America and How to Get it Back on Track."

    And Andy Kohut, president of the Pew Research Center.

    Tom and Andy, welcome back.

    Andy, take these numbers in this poll, take what we heard from the voters, many of the voters in Gwen's piece, in terms of their feelings about Congress, and put that in historical context for us.

    ANDREW KOHUT, Pew Center for the People and the Press: Well, it's easy just to say: These are record lows. And they're not empty record lows. I mean, there was a 15-percent satisfaction score back in '92 when people were appalled by the House banking scandal, in the Wall Street Journal poll, but this 16 percent represents a slide from September. It was 20 percent in September.

    The numbers keep getting worse in this poll and in many other polls. It's clear that the public is very, very unhappy with the performance of this Congress. It's seen as achieving less than most congresses. And when we asked the follow-up question, "Who's to blame?" by a 62 percent to 10 percent margin, people say, "The Republicans, the folks that are in charge."

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