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Survey: Most People Don't Think Congress Affects Their Lives

Capitol Hill

A majority of people now think Congress doesn’t affect how they live their daily lives, according to a survey the Center on Congress at Indiana University released today.

By now, most people know that Congress isn’t very popular—88 percent of people surveyed say they have a negative view of Congress.

But up until now, most people accepted the view that Congress affected them. Half of people the Center on Congress surveyed in 2012 said they thought the work of Congress affected their daily lives.

Last year, that number dropped to 33 percent.

Center on Congress Director of Research Edward Carmines says those statistics are part of a negative cycle that’s hard to break.

“There’s no doubt that having the public disapprove of it as much as it does, tends to weaken it as an institution.  That lack of public support really undermines its ability to do its job," he says.

But Americans don’t think Congress is solely to blame. When asked to grade themselves on things like how often they contact their congressman and how well they keep up with what’s going on in Congress, they gave themselves D’s.

“It’s a two-way street here. The citizens need to do more. They realize they aren’t highly engaged and often do not meet the standard for an informed citizenry," Carmines says.

On the other hand, Carmines says Congress needs to act more professionally and efficiently if it wants to win back constituent trust.

Carmines says all this can ultimately effect elections. He says if people do not feel their views matter to Congress, they are less likely to vote, and that means the votes of people on the extremes count more, only making the problem worse.

Congress has made some progress in recent weeks.

House Speaker John Boehner pushed through a clean bill to raise the debt ceiling last week, avoiding a crisis where the U.S. could have defaulted on its debt.

But last fall's government shutdown is still on many people's minds, and Carmines says it will take a lot more than one victory for Congress to restore its reputation as a well-functioning legislative body.

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