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With midterm elections near, positive ratings for Congress remain dismal

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In hypothetical matchups against Dem candidates, moderate Republicans fare better than those backed by the Tea Party.

With less than a week to go until the midterm election, Americans continue to show consistently low opinions of Congress, according to a new poll from Harris.

Last month 7% of Americans gave Congress positive ratings and this month 8% do so, while 92% of Americans give them negative marks on the overall job they are doing.

"Americans may disagree on a great many things; disdain for Congress, however, continues to be universal."

Young vs. old, conservative vs. liberal, Americans may disagree on a great many things; disdain for Congress, however, continues to be universal.

  • Though Millennials are less inclined than their elders to give Congress negative ratings for the job they're doing, overwhelming majorities of every generation rate Congress negatively (87% Millennials, 93% Gen Xers, 94% Baby Boomers, 98% Matures).
  • What's more, at least nine in ten Americans disapprove of the job Congress is doing across the range of political ideologies (91% Conservatives, 93% Moderates, 90% Liberals).

Things improve, as they tend to do, when Americans are asked to rate the job their own member of the House of Representatives is doing, though it's worth noting that negative ratings nonetheless outpace positive ones by nearly a 3:1 margin. 23% of Americans give a positive rating for the overall job their member of the House of Representatives is doing, while 65% give a negative rating. Positive ratings are up from last month, when this rating reached a low point of 18%.

  • Here generational attitudes are more dispersed, with Gen Xers least likely to rate their member of the House of Representatives positively and Matures most likely to do the same (22% Millennials, 15% Gen Xers, 24% Baby Boomers, 34% Matures).
  • Independents are again the least enthused, with only 13% rating their Representative positively, compared to 20% of Democrats and 22% of Republicans.

Tea Party Prospects

Much of the political play-by-play earlier this year was focused on a number of GOP primaries pitting Tea Party candidates against more moderate Republicans. Some similar storylines unfolded in the leadup to the 2010 midterm elections, but how do attitudes toward the Tea Party compare to where they were then? Just under a third of Americans (32%) say they support the Tea Party, while 40% say they oppose it.

Tea Party support shows some degradation from just before the 2010 midterms, when 38% supported the Tea Party and 32% opposed it. The lion's share of this drop in support has come from the Republican (with support dropping from 70% in 2010 to 60% in 2014) and Independent (from 44% to 34%) camps.

When looking at hypothetical matchups between a Democratic candidate running for office in respondents' district against two different types of Republican opponents, moderate Republicans appear to fare better than Republicans backed by the Tea Party:

  • In a hypothetical election between a Democrat and a Moderate Republican, the Democrat has a slight edge with 41% saying they'd choose this candidate, 39% saying they'd vote for the moderate Republican and 20% not sure. Among those absolutely certain they will vote in the election, the Democrat and the moderate Republican are tied at 43% each.
  • The hypothetical matchup between a Democrat and a Tea Party supported Republican is a different story altogether, with 47% saying they would choose the Democrat, 26% saying they would support the Tea Party supported Republican, and 27% unsure. The gap narrows when looking at those absolutely certain they will vote, with 46% saying they would vote for the Democrat and 35% saying they would vote for the Tea Party supported Republican. 

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