By Cathleen Decker Los Angeles Times
LOS ANGELES — This is how much Americans dislike Congress:
They like Homeland Security more.
They like federal bureaucrats more.
They like the IRS more. Far, far more.
A newly released Pew Research Center poll gives Congress credit for a rare miracle: uniting Democrats and Republicans. With a sense of agreement rarely seen in recent weeks, all political groups have come to the same conclusion: They dislike Congress overwhelmingly. And all sides agree that the system isn’t the problem — the actual members are.
Only 19 percent say they trust government to do right either always or most of the time, which matches the low last seen in August 2011, during the last congressional dispute over the debt ceiling. No coincidence there.
Yet it’s not everything in Washington that Americans dislike — despite the impression one sometimes gets of a nation rising up with pitchforks in hand. Views of governmental agencies and actions are varied and mostly positive.
Three-fourths of Americans have a favorable view of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for example, a figure almost matched by NASA and the Department of Defense. Of 13 government entities measured, nine had favorability ratings above 60 percent. Only one, the IRS, had a negative profile, with 51 percent disapproving and 44 percent approving of it.
Still — far better than Congress. Only 23 percent of Americans had a favorable view of that institution (unanimity: 23 percent among Republicans, 25 percent among Democrats and 20 percent among independents). Federal workers, often decried as exemplars of inefficiency and worthy of the furlough they just got, were almost three times as popular, with 62 percent of Americans feeling favorable toward them.
Incumbents tend to shrug away such results, since these polls take a national measurement and their elections are local or regional, at most. As has been written endlessly, most members reside in safe districts where their views are largely in sync with the populace, if not with the representative from across the aisle. And voters historically have tended to hate Congress as an institution but appreciate, at least, their own member of Congress.
But if numbers in the poll hold — and that is a big if, with even primary elections months away — at least some of those incumbents have cause to be more concerned.
According to Pew, almost 4 in 10 voters said they did not want their own representative re-elected, a sobering percentage. Before the last two non-presidential elections, both “change” elections that altered the makeup of Congress, the percentage of Americans wanting to upend their member of Congress was in the 20s.