Americans' low regard for Congress might be improved through compromise

September 13, 2017, 3:30 PM GMT+0

Only 18% of Americans approve of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s job performance

Only 11% of Americans today approve of the way Congress is handling its job – and only 21% of Republicans give Congress a positive assessment, even as Republicans control both houses. While Congressional approval rose at the start of the Trump Administration, it ebbed in the Economist/YouGov Poll this summer. For Americans of all parties, Congress isn’t accomplishing much. For many, the solution may be a strategy that Republicans have dreaded in the past: compromise.

Approval ratings for Republican Congressional leaders are at or near an all-time low, especially within their own party: less than half of Republicans approve of the way Speaker Paul Ryan is handling his job, while a majority disapprove of the way Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is handling his for the first time this year.

Democratic leaders were also criticized – more Americans disapprove than approve of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. But they at least get support from their own party; majorities of Democrats approve of each of the two leaders’ performance.

After the early failure to repeal the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), Americans have lowered expectations of what this Congress will accomplish. Most believe Congress will pass a budget, but Americans aren’t even convinced that it will accomplish tax reform, something that is high on the President’s agenda. And the public does not expect Congress will now repeal Obamacare, build a border wall with Mexico, pass immigration reform, or protect the legal status of the “dreamers” who came to the U.S. illegally as children.

Last week Donald Trump compromised with Congressional Democrats in order to raise the debt ceiling and provide hurricane relief. Reports swirled on Wednesday night about a possible compromise between Democrats and the President over the so-called "Dreamers" and the border wall, but President Trump was quick to deny these rumors on Thursday morning. Compromise is clearly what Americans want to see in the President and in Congress, but it is not necessarily something they expect.

In Economist/YouGov Polls, Democrats always have been more supportive of compromise in principle, with most saying they wanted to have a member of Congress who compromised in order to get things done. Republicans were more interested in having representatives who stuck to principles. But today, a majority of Republicans also favor compromise in their representatives.

Americans want more compromises from the President, too. By two to one, Americans believe the President should compromise with Democrats in order to get things done, as he did on the debt ceiling, and 44% of Republicans agree. However, 56% of Republicans would rather see the President compromise with moderate Republicans in Congress, and 52% of Republicans favor Presidential compromise with the Freedom Caucus.

But that’s not what the public thinks it is getting in this President. Despite last week’s compromise between the President and Congressional Democrats, six in ten do not describe Donald Trump as someone who compromises. Republicans and Democrats agree.

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