Approval rating for Congress sinks to all-time low

U.S. Capitol Building at Sunset (Kim Uhl/CNN)

U.S. Capitol Building at Sunset (Kim Uhl/CNN)

WASHINGTON (CNN) — As the hours wind down toward a possible government shutdown because of a bitter partisan battle over the new health care law, the approval rating for Congress is plummeting to historic lows.

And a CNN/ORC International poll indicates that it’s not just Congress and its top leaders that are making history for all the wrong reasons, but also the tea party movement and the Democratic and Republican parties, too.

According to a survey released Monday afternoon, just 10% of Americans say they approve of the job Congress is doing, an all-time low in a CNN poll. And 87% say they disapprove of the job federal lawmakers are doing, higher than it’s ever been in CNN polling.

The 10% approval rating in the new CNN survey, which was conducted Friday through Sunday, is down 10 percentage points from CNN’s previous survey at the beginning of the month. The 87% disapproval rating is a jump of nine points from the first week in September.

While Americans’ perception of the job Congress is doing has taken a hit, President Barack Obama’s approval rating — well under 50% — has remained steady since earlier in the month.

Forty-four percent of those questioned say they approve of the job Obama’s doing as president, with 53% giving him a thumbs down. Those numbers are basically unchanged from the 45%-52% approval/disapproval rating in CNN’s previous survey.

“President Obama’s strong suit remains his personal qualities, with a 51% majority still saying that he has the personality and leadership qualities a president should have, although that number is down six points from our last survey,” CNN Polling Director Keating Holland said. “But only 42% say that he agrees with them on issues that matter most, while 54% say they disagree with him on issues.”

While the Democratic Party remains more popular with the public than the GOP, the CNN survey indicates that its favorable rating has taken a bigger hit since the spring.

Forty-three percent of those questioned say they have a favorable view of the Democratic Party, with 52% saying they see the Democrats in an unfavorable light. Those numbers are the reverse of where they stood in CNN polling in May when more respondents had a favorable view of the party than an unfavorable one.

While the Democrats’ favorable rating dropped nine points, the GOP rating only edged down three points, from 35% in May to 32% now. More than six in 10 say they have an unfavorable view of the Republican Party.

The Democratic and Republican unfavorable ratings are also all-time highs in CNN polling.

The unfavorable numbers for the tea party movement are also at an all-time high in CNN surveys.

Thirty-one percent say they see the tea party in a favorable light, while 54% hold an unfavorable view of the of the movement now in its fifth year.

The drive to overthrow the health care law, which was passed in 2010 when Democrats controlled both houses of Congress, is being fueled by GOP lawmakers voted into office the past two elections with the strong support of tea party activists and other grassroots conservatives.

The top leaders in the House and Senate are also taking a hit in the court of public opinion.

“House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, the two party leaders at the center of the budget negotiations that may lead to a shutdown, have become more unpopular since May, and both are facing the highest unfavorable ratings they have ever received in CNN polling,” Holland said.

Only one in three have a favorable view of Boehner, with 48% holding a negative view of the top Republican in the House. That’s an 11-point change since May, when 37% had an unfavorable view of Boehner.

Three in 10 say they have have a favorable view of Reid, with 45% saying they see the top Democrat in the Senate in a negative light. Reid stood at 23%-38% favorable/unfavorable in CNN’s May survey.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell stands at 27%/39%, with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi at 37%/51%.

Despite his marathon Senate speech against Obamacare last week, freshman GOP Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas is still an unknown to many Americans.

According to the poll, 30% have a favorable view of him, 36% have an unfavorable view. Just over one in three don’t know enough about him to form an opinion.

The poll was conducted for CNN by ORC International between September 27 and 29, with 803 adults nationwide questioned by telephone. The survey’s overall sampling error is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.