The major storyline of the 2014 midterm elections was that the Republican Party regained a majority in both the House and the Senate. The GOP takeover of Congress was viewed as evidence that Americans had grown frustrated with the Democratic leadership, especially considering approval ratings for both Obama and the Democrat-led Congress had reached record lows. The approval rating for Congress hovered around 13-14 percent for much of 2014, an indication that change was desperately needed.
Despite the midterm elections confirming voters’ displeasure with the previous Congress, most Americans remain skeptical that the new Senators and Representatives will be able to accomplish anything differently. We conducted a survey which posed the following question: “Will the GOP-controlled Congress be more productive than the Democrat-controlled one?” Nearly 71 percent of respondents answered “No,” with only 29 percent expressing confidence in the new Congressional group.
The responses were relatively consistent across both genders and all age groups, with the only major differences in responses determined based on respondents’ location. Eighty percent of those in urban areas, for instance, voted “No,” compared to 69.7 percent in suburban areas and 59.6 percent in rural areas. The inverse is also true, with 19.6 percent of urban respondents voting “Yes,” compared to 30.3 percent of suburban voters and 40.4 percent of rural voters.
Response from urban voters:
Response from suburban voters:
Response from rural voters:
A major reason why the new GOP-led Congress could be viewed as potentially ineffective is due to the opposition they will inevitably face in executive office. At least for President Obama’s last two years in the White House, it’s unlikely that we’ll see much bipartisanship in Washington. Although that was one of the main focuses of Obama’s initial campaign, the President and his administration have become increasingly partisan in recent years. He’s unexpected to work closely with House Speaker John Boehner or Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to accomplish the country’s much-needed goals. Likewise, GOP leaders in the House and Senate will probably attempt to push the Keystone pipeline, block the President’s executive action on immigration, and oppose other proposals like free community college.
Leading up to the GOP takeover, both sides promised the American public that they would do their best to work together to ensure progress in Washington doesn’t reach a partisan standstill. Obama even met with Boehner and McConnell today to reaffirm that “a spirit of cooperation and putting America first” is their main priority. It’s too early to tell whether that will hold true, but the White House has already made it known that it’s unhappy with the way things have gotten started in Congress. “In the first five days that they’ve been in session, they’ve advanced five pieces of legislation all the way to the rules committee that they already know this president strongly opposes,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said in a statement.
Even if Obama and Congress are able to work out their differences on key issues, public perception of both sides remains unfavorable. Although data regarding the new group is currently unavailable, the Congressional job approval rating stagnates at 13.8 percent. Obama’s approval rating is slightly better at 44.4 percent, but that still means that the majority of Americans don’t think that he’s doing a good job. With 70.8 percent of respondents to our survey equally pessimistic about the new GOP-led Congress, it appears as if America has all but lost its faith in Washington.