WASHINGTON - Fueled by disappointment at the pace of change since Democrats assumed the majority on Capitol Hill, public approval of Congress has fallen to its lowest level in more than a decade, according to a new Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll.
And 63% of Americans say that the new Democratic Congress is governing in a "business as usual" manner, rather than working to bring the fundamental change that party leaders promised after November's midterm election.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco), the first woman to hold that position, has also failed to impress many Americans. Only 36% approve of the way she is handling the job, the poll found.
In contrast, 46% of Americans in the current poll said they approved of the way Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia handled the job after he led the GOP into the majority in 1994.
The poll also found continued public unhappiness with President Bush, whose approval ratings have been stuck below 40% since last year.
Public disappointment with Congress swelled before Republicans lost power in November. Democrats swept in on promises to end the war and tackle a host of popular domestic issues, including raising the minimum wage, reducing prices on prescription drugs, promoting stem cell research and ending corruption.
Although some Democratic initiatives have passed the House, few have won passage in the Senate, where the party has held the majority by one vote.
Bush and his Capitol Hill allies have thus far managed to block every Democratic attempt to force a withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, much to the chagrin of Democrats around the country.
"They just haven't seemed to have gathered things together the way they should," said Martha Wilde, 81, a Democrat from Remer, Minn., who said she had been particularly disappointed in congressional Democrats' lack of progress confronting the Bush administration over the war.
"I think they should force them more," Wilde said.
A third of liberal Democrats, who constitute the party's base, approve of the job Congress is doing; 58% disapprove, the poll found.
That's a dramatic change from January, when a Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll found that 43% of liberal Democrats approved of the job Congress was doing and 36% disapproved.
Representatives of Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Democrats were undeterred by the public's anger.
"The American people are rightly frustrated with the ongoing war in Iraq, and Democrats will continue to work with Republicans to force the president to change direction in Iraq so our troops can come home and we can refocus our efforts on fighting terrorism," said Pelosi spokesman Nadeam Elshami.
The poll was conducted Thursday through Sunday; 1,183 adults were surveyed by telephone. The margin of error was plus or minus 3 percentage points.
Copyright 2007 Los Angeles Times