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Pelosi, Democratic Congress Enjoying Their Honeymoon

Is Congress turning the corner with the American public? In a mid-January Gallup Poll, Congress had a 35 percent approval rating, an increase of 14 points over its December rating and the highest rating in more than a year for the body. [IMGCAP(1)]

According to Gallup, Congress averaged a 25 percent approval rating in 2006. In only two years since 1974 has Congress’ approval rating averaged above 50 percent for a year (2001 and 2002).

Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) 44 percent favorable rating is nearly equal to President Bush’s (45 percent) — but his unfavorable rating is more than twice as high as hers (53 percent to 22 percent). Her 44 percent favorable rating is up from 26 percent before the elections.

Forty-three percent in a Jan. 24-25 Princeton Survey Research Associates/Newsweek poll said the Democrats in Congress were keeping the promises they made during the campaign. Twenty-four percent said they were not.

A plurality in a January NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll said the Democratic Congress would bring the right kind of change to the country, while 39 percent said there wouldn’t be much change either way. Fifteen percent said the Democratic Congress will bring the wrong kind.

Vietnam and Iraq: Understanding What War Is About. Sixty-one percent told CBS News interviewers in January that they had a clear idea of what the Iraq War was all about, but 38 percent said they did not. When Gallup asked people in 1967 whether they had a clear idea of what the Vietnam War was about, 49 percent said they did, but 48 percent said they did not.

Assertiveness Training for Congress. In the PSRA/Newsweek poll, 27 percent said Congress had been assertive enough in challenging the Bush administration’s conduct of the war, while 64 percent said it had not been.

A Desire for Success? Sixty-three percent of Americans in a Jan. 16-17 Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll said they personally wanted Bush’s Iraq War plan to succeed, including 51 percent of Democrats, 79 percent of Republicans and 63 percent of independents. Nationally, 22 percent didn’t want it to, including a third of Democrats.

Counting the Days. In the PSRA/Newsweek poll, 58 percent said they personally wished the Bush presidency was over; 37 percent did not.

Downplaying CEO Pay. When the NBC/Wall Street Journal pollsters asked people to rank things that disturb them about what is happening in America, the top response (chosen by 35 percent) was the number of Americans without health insurance, followed by declining moral values and standards (27 percent) and lack of control over illegal immigration (25 percent).

At the bottom of the list of six items was the amount of pay that CEOs and top corporate executives received (15 percent).

Political Happiness. A new survey supports what a number of other surveys have shown: Republicans say they are happier than Democrats. In the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, people were asked to rate how things were going in their lives on a 10-point scale. Twenty-six percent of Democrats and 26 percent of independents put themselves at points 9 and 10 in terms of happiness and contentment. Compare that with the 40 percent of Republicans who scored themselves that happy.

Thirty-eight percent of Democrats, 37 percent of independents and 33 percent of Republicans said they had read a self-help book about how to be happier. Nineteen percent of Democrats, 21 percent of independents and 21 percent of Republicans said they had attended a speech or seminar about how to be happier in life. Twenty-seven percent of Democrats, 22 percent of independents and 19 percent of Republicans said they had taken a prescription anti-depressant.

Al Gore’s Standing. In a Jan. 30-31 Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll, 51 percent had an unfavorable opinion of former Vice President Al Gore and 39 percent had a favorable one. That’s his highest unfavorable rating ever in the poll.

Declaring Bankruptcy. Nine percent in an October-November Pew Social Trends survey said they had declared bankruptcy, a response virtually unchanged from their May 2005 response (10 percent).

Internet Privacy. A late-January Zogby survey for the Congressional Internet Caucus Advisory Committee confirms that young people have different notions about privacy than older ones. About two in 10 considered their dating profiles to be an invasion of privacy compared with 55 percent of older respondents. Interestingly, however, young people were more cautious than older ones about the age at which children should be able to have e-mail accounts and access to social networking sites.

On a different note, 43 percent said China would open up because of the Internet, but 40 percent said China would change the Internet by limiting the flow of information.

Karlyn Bowman is a resident fellow specializing in public opinion and polls at the American Enterprise Institute.

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