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Congress Hits a New Low in Approval, Poll Finds

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Hammered by bipartisan discontent with its partisan rancor, the U.S. Congress reconvenes on Tuesday with its lowest approval rating on record in polls dating back nearly 40 years -- ideal fodder for President Obama in the election year ahead.

Just 13 percent of Americans in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll approve of the way Congress is handling its job, while 84 percent disapprove -- its worst rating in poll results since 1974.  Moreover, 65 percent disapprove “strongly.”

Congress’ rating is a broad 35 points below Obama’s 48 percent approval, the biggest gap between approval of the president and Congress since 1990.  Obama, though, still has plenty of challenges of his own: In polling since 1940, just four previous presidents have started their re-election year with less than 50 percent approval.  Only one of them won -- Richard Nixon in 1972.

Nonetheless, the squabbling that’s riven Congress the past year gives Obama one clear strategy -- joining in the chorus of criticism of Congress, and the Republicans in Congress in particular.  Their 21 percent approval rating is a point from its record low, set just last month.

The Democrats in Congress, at 33 percent approval, do better than their GOP counterparts, and have gained six points from their low last month.  But they’ve moved in tandem with the Republicans: Both parties in Congress have lost 17 points in approval in the past three years.

Given the partisan and ideological nature of Congress’ wrangling, it’s striking how disapproval of the institution crosses the country’s political landscape.  This poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates, finds that disapproval is equally high -- 84 to 86 percent -- among Democrats, Republicans and independents, and conservatives, moderates and liberals alike.

Indeed it peaks at both ends of the spectrum: Ninety-one percent of conservative Republicans disapprove of Congress, as do 90 percent of liberal Democrats -- one thing, at least, on which they agree.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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