An opinion survey conducted by the IU Center on Congress last week found 88.3 percent of citizens disapprove of how Congress is operating.
The survey, although recently released, was conducted in 2013. The Center on Congress at IU focuses on examining how constituents and congress interact and often conducts opinion polls to see how the public is responding to Congress, according to the press release.
“I think the citizens are disappointed because they feel that Congress is not dealing effectively with the problems that they confront in their daily lives,” former
Congressman and Center on Congress Director Lee Hamilton said.
The survey also concluded 40 percent of responders do not believe Congress understands the interests and views of the people it represents, according to the press release.
“What is relevant to people’s lives are the problems they wrestle with everyday — how to take care of their family, how do they keep good health in the family, what kind of arrangements can be made for retirement,” Hamilton said. “These are questions that occupy almost all of us. The voters and citizens do not feel the congress is helping them deal with these problems.”
According to the survey, 56 percent of constituents believe congress members should be spending more time back home in their districts to really understand what affects them.
But Congress didn’t get the only bad grade.
Survey-takers gave themselves a D-plus for contacting Congress about issues and following what Congress is doing.
This lack of reaching out by constituents is a big reason they’re not being heard by Congress, Hamilton said.
“I think citizens are self critical,” Hamilton said. “They recognize the obligations of citizenship which require voting and being informed and contacting their representatives and working to improve their communities. They recognize they do not fulfill all the obligations they should. They not only mark the congress down, they mark themselves down as well.”
The press release acknowledged although the public recognizes it’s not fulfilling its duties by seeking open communication with their congress members, that does not stop the public from critiquing them.
Professor Edward G. Carmines, who also works with the Center on Congress, said in the release constituents are dealing with a disconnect to Congress.
“I think the major thing is that probably the public has an exalted view of what congress can get accomplished,” Carmines said. “They have high expectations, maybe too high, as to what can get accomplished. On the other hand the congress does not perform very admirably.”
Constituents don’t believe Congress is focusing on the key problems, leading constituents to feel Congress is less relevant in their lives, he said.
“The negative evaluation of Congress has been a persistent stable of our politics for over a decade,” Carmines said.
To solve the issue of negative reaction toward Congress, Hamilton said new legislation will need to be passed.
“They flat out just don’t think the congress is doing their jobs,” Hamilton said. “Basically what the congress will have to do is produce and become more relevant in people’s lives.”
But Carmines said the public doesn’t understand the challenges Congress faces in order to pass legislation, because it represents many different views and has to pass legislation in regards to them all.
He said it’s easier said than done.
“It’s not simply voting,” Carmines said. “It’s about them being able to compromise. I sometimes don’t think they recognize how difficult it is for Congress to comprise and get things done.”