Only 9 percent of Americans approved of Congress in the weeks leading up to the midterm elections, which may explain why the election drew the lowest turnout since 1942.
That's just one revealing insight from the latest Allstate/National Journal Heartland Monitor poll, which surveyed a national sample of Americans between Oct. 22-26 about their attitudes towards President Barack Obama and the two major political parties in anticipation of the president being forced to work with a Republican-controlled Congress in his final two years in office.
In 2012, Democrats held onto the Senate perhaps in part because Americans at that time had relatively more positive feelings towards the institution: At the same point in the last election cycle, 21 percent of those surveyed by Allstate/National Journal approved of Congress.
But now that the GOP has a solid majority in the Senate -- it will have at least 53 seats come January -- and has increased its governing majority in the House, Congress is poised to disappoint Americans as much as they expect it to. Only 13 percent of Americans thought that the election would result in more cooperation than before. Twenty-one percent said there would now be less cooperation, while 60 percent thought the level of gridlock would be about the same.
That disconnect was illustrated on Thursday by continued animosity between Obama and Congress, with incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) saying he was "very disturbed" by the president's vow to act independently to prevent deportations for millions of undocumented immigrants.
Even as Americans believe that cooperation between the two parties is improbable, they were still significantly more likely to say their lives would benefit from "Democrats and Republicans compromising" to solve problems than from either party controlling both the White House and Congress. That finding held in equivalent numbers for Republican and Democrats.
The mood towards the Obama administration is best characterized as ambivalent: Thirty-two percent of Americans surveyed thought the president's actions would have no impact on their "opportunity to get ahead," which was the highest rating captured since the poll began asking that question in July 2009. After Obama first assumed the presidency, 47 percent of Americans thought the country was heading in the right direction, but in this latest poll, that number had been halved.
The poll, which is the 21st in a series looking at how Americans are affected by the changing economy, surveyed 1,000 adults by landline and cell phones, and has a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points.