Battleground Poll Finds Voter Discontent with Washington

Survey finds only 9 percent of Americans polled approve of Congress.

Battleground Poll
November 04, 2013

The American public’s attitude toward elected leaders and the policies they pursue has turned sharply negative, according to a new George Washington University Battleground Poll. More than 70 percent of likely voters say the country is on the wrong track, with a full 61 percent strongly holding that view.

The George Washington University Battleground Poll is conducted by Ed Goeas of the Tarrance Group, a Republican strategic research and polling firm, and Celinda Lake of Lake Research Partners, a national public opinion and strategy research firm. The George Washington University Global Media Institute, affiliated with the Graduate School of Political Management (GSPM) and the School of Media and Public Affairs (SMPA), serves as the university’s home for the partnership. 

"American voters are extraordinarily dispirited,” said Christopher Arterton, professor of political management. “The fights in Washington over the federal budget and the debt ceiling, coming on top of an aggravatingly slow economic recovery, have produced a cauldron of discontent. If these sentiments last for the next 12 months, a large number of incumbents are going to be in trouble on Election Day.” 

Only 13 percent of voters rate the economy as excellent or good, while 42 percent describe the economy as poor. Americans say that among issues like the economy, jobs and health care, Washington’s biggest obstacle is its inability to solve problems.

President Barack Obama’s approval ratings have taken a hit since his reelection. His job approval now stands at 44 percent, with 52 percent of voters expressing disapproval. His personal ratings have also fallen, with 47 percent of Americans polled viewing him favorably and 50 percent seeing him unfavorably.  

“For the first time in our polling, the president has both majority unfavorable image and majority disapproval on his job rating,” said Mr. Goeas. “As has all too often happened to presidents in their second term, there is a lot throughout this data that raises the very real prospect that Barrack Obama has lost the ability to lead this country.”

Lawmakers in Congress fared worse. Only 9 percent of voters polled approve of Congress’s work, and 89 percent expressed their disapproval. The public has also turned sour on their representatives—just 25 percent say the person representing them today should be in office next term. A 58 percent majority say that it’s time to give a new person a chance. 

The survey also asked voters about their feelings toward the Affordable Care Act, commonly called Obamacare. Fifty-three percent oppose the law, while 43 percent favor it and 4 percent say they are unsure. When asked if they thought the legislation went too far or not far enough, 49 percent said it went too far, and 21 percent said that the law was about right. Twenty-three percent of voters polled said the law did not go far enough.  

In terms of political parties, 53 percent of voters view Democrats unfavorably and 41 percent of voters view the party favorably. Sixty-five percent of voters hold negative views of Republicans in Congress and only 27 percent of voters rate them favorably. Public opinion of the Tea Party is a little better: Thirty-two percent of voters view the party favorably, while 54 percent view them unfavorably. 

“Americans are not willing to forgive the growing pattern of reckless brinksmanship from the right,” said Ms. Lake. “There is little question in voters’ minds that congressional Republicans and their Tea Party allies deserve the lion’s share of the blame for the inability to solve problems in Washington, the issue that voters now rank above all others, including jobs and the economy—a first in Battleground history. The 2014 midterms are a long way off, but the political implications of this latest act of reckless gamesmanship can already be seen in this poll, reaching down to imperil individual incumbents." 

For complete results, including questions on the rollout of the Affordable Care Act, the impact of the government shutdown and the state of the economy, please visit