Saturday, January 20, 2007

New Congress Has Mixed Support in Public Opinion

The American public is giving the opening session of the new Congress mixed marks, according to the latest Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll:

Approval of Congress has increased since the midterm elections ousted Republicans from their House and Senate majorities, and Democrats are viewed in a more positive light after two weeks in power, according to the survey.

But only 25% of those surveyed believed Democrats have formulated a clear direction for the country; 58% said they had failed to.

Those results amount to a mixed report card on the much-ballyhooed "100-hour" agenda House Democrats set for themselves as they took power.

They made a strong start with House passage of some broadly popular bills, such as an increase in the minimum wage and a cut in student-loan rates, which passed with significant Republican support. It was a rare display of bipartisanship after years of the party-line splits that marked GOP control.

But the survey underscores that Democrats still have much to prove to voters as the Senate debates these bills and lawmakers in both chambers turn to more divisive issues, such as the federal budget, global warming and Iraq.

Overall, the poll found 36% approve of how Congress is doing its job — hardly a mandate, but up from 30% in September.
The poll also found a 34% approval rating for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, whereas a plurality of 41% said they didn't know enough about the San Francisco Democrat to have an opinion.

The survey also shows high support for the range of policies that the Democrats are currently introducing in Congress. Eighty-one percent of those surveyed back an increase in the minimum wage, for example, and 80% supported government negotiating lower prescription drug prices for the elderly.

This week's Times poll also surveyed public opinion on the Bush administration's Iraq build-up,
with the results published Thursday. A large majority of Americans opposes the Bush troop surge, and public trust of the president has declined to the lowest levels in a Los Angeles Times survey.

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