What did the American public think of its Congress in the 1990s? Not much. In 1996, when the Harris Organization asked a random sample of Americans how they felt about twelve institutions in our society, the U.S. Congress finished dead last, with only 10 percent of the people admitting to having a great deal of confidence in it. A year later this figure was basically unchanged at 11 percent. Gallup’s procedures are different from Harris’s, but the general tenor of its results is not. In late May of 1996, that organization asked people about their confidence in fourteen institutions of society and took special note of the number of individuals expressing either “a great deal or quite a lot of confidence.” Congress ended up second to last, barely nudging out the criminal justice system, 20 percent to 19 percent. Relatedly, only a small portion of the people-34 percent in mid-1996-could even say they approved of the job Congress was doing. To be sure, approval of Congress improved briefly starting in the summer of 1997, in the wake of the balanced budget accord reached between Congress and the president. But the open controversy in Congress over the issue of the possible impeachment of President Clinton promptly brought those approval ratings back to their typically low levels. The general conclusion at the close of the century has to be that Congress is not the subject of much public confidence and approval.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Social Sciences(all)