Three in 10 view Congress in favorable light

WASHINGTON — Congress is not a popular institution these days.

But the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll documents a — dare we say it — comeback for Congress’ image.

Three in 10 respondents said they viewed the U.S. Congress in a favorable light, the highest that number has been in Post-ABC polling since March 2011 and a significant improvement from the 23 percent favorable score Congress received in a Pew Research Center survey in mid-January 2013.

Now, a 30 percent favorable rating isn’t exactly something that Congress should be thrilled about. (President Barack Obama’s favorable rating, by way of comparison, is nearly twice that high.) And, one poll is just that: a single snapshot in time — a time, it’s worth noting, when Congress and the White House have been playing uncharacteristically nice with one another.

But, given where Congress has been — reaching record lows in Gallup data in 2012 — any positive movement is worth noting. So, we asked Capital Insight, the polling company who conducts Washington Post surveys, to break out some of the subgroups where Congress is overperforming its 30 percent overall favorable score.

The subgroup where Congress is most liked? Hispanics — where a majority (56 percent) have a favorable view of the body. (Worth noting: The Hispanic sample is only 95 respondents, meaning it has a large margin of error and should be viewed skeptically.)

Other subgroups where Congress is significantly overperforming its showing with the general public include: non-white respondents who didn’t attend college (50 percent approval), non-white respondents making under $50,000 a year (49 percent approval) and moderate to conservative Democrats (44 percent approval).

Democrats, non-registered voters and those living in the West are also more inclined to view Congress favorably than the general public.

Of course, a look at who likes Congress more than average got us thinking about who dislikes the institution more than normally.

Again, Capital Insight came through.

Nearly eight in 10 white college graduates have an unfavorable view of Congress as do whites making over $50,000 and year and all people making over $100,000 a year. Nearly three in four conservative Republicans feel unfavorably toward Congress.

What conclusions can be drawn from the data above? That the higher your level of education and the more money you make, the more likely you are to dislike Congress. Democrats feel better about Congress than Republicans. Hispanics feel better about Congress than whites. Non-registered voters like Congress more than registered ones do.

Of course, perspective matters. Congress is still in the used-car salesman/journalist territory. And there’s little evidence in the Washington Post-ABC numbers that that reality will change any time soon.

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The poll was conducted for The Washington Post and ABC News by telephone March 20-24 among a random national sample of 1,014 adults, including users of both conventional and cellular phones. The results from the full survey have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points. Sampling, data collection and tabulation by SSRS of Media, Pa. Produced for the Washington Post by Capital Insight.

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Cillizza writes The Fix, a politics blog for The Washington Post.

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