For most average citizens, keeping their job means ensuring their boss is satisfied with their work performance. Unfortunately, the same logic does not apply to Congressional members. According to the Gallup Congressional approval rating poll for May, Congress has a dismal 20% approval rating. On a positive note, 20% was also their approval rating in April, so they aren’t any more unpopular than they were last month at least.

While 20% approval is laughably bad, the joke and blame is really on us – their constituents.  According to statistics from the Center For Politics, 380 out of 393 (97%) House members and 27 out of 29 (93%) Senators seeking reelection had successful reelection bids. Between the two branches of Congress, that is a 96% percent reelection rate, yet Congressional approval ratings from a month before the elections last November were at a staggering 18%.  Not attempting to change something with an approval rating of 18% is borderline insanity, but as they say, we have made our bed. Honestly, any one could have been elected to Congress, slept at their seat during every session, and voted on bills based on the flip of a quarter and probably landed at least a 25% approval rating.

So, why are people voting to keep a governmental body with an 18% approval rating the same?

Simply, there is a perception issue when it comes to Congress. For some, they view their Representative or Senator as doing an acceptable job in their position, and they view the other members of Congress as the problem. This was illustrated by a somewhat dated, yet still relevant, 2013 Gallup Poll showing that 46% of Americans approved of their own representative at a time when the Congressional approval rating was at a lowly 16%. While 46% still isn’t even a majority, it is markedly better than 16 or 20 percent.  While, Democrats will blame the low ratings on Republicans holding the majority and vice versa, the cold hard truth is that Congress has not had an approval rating of at least 50 percent in a Gallup Poll since June of 2003; during which time both parties have had the blessing of being the majority. 

Perhaps, the problem lies with the two party system. When there are only two legitimate options to select from, there is always the possibility that you aren’t going to have a good option. The government actively regulates the private sector to ensure consumers aren’t left with too few options; however, the exact opposite is true when pertaining to political choice by ensuring that a two party system prevails. Sure, there are independent candidates, albeit very few, in Congress, but there aren’t enough to matter when compared to the two main parties.

Given the current state of Congress, I wouldn’t expect the approval numbers to increase anytime soon.  Next time, maybe changing the status quo isn’t such a terrible idea; after all, there isn’t much room to drop from 20% approval.

Title Image “Washington Capitol Hill” by Arend is licensed under CC BY 2.0