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Americans have low expectations for the next Congress, new poll finds

<i>Drew Angerer/Getty Images</i><br/>A new poll found that most Americans don't expect Washington to accomplish much in the next two years.
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Drew Angerer/Getty Images
A new poll found that most Americans don't expect Washington to accomplish much in the next two years.

By Ariel Edwards-Levy, CNN

Most Americans don’t expect Washington to accomplish much in the next two years, a new poll finds. At the same time, another new survey finds a broad public consensus in support of some congressional actions — particularly to lower the costs of prescription drugs.

A 65% majority of US adults say they think President Joe Biden will be unsuccessful in getting his programs passed into law over the next two years, according to a Pew Research Center survey released Thursday, with 61% saying they expect Republican leaders in Congress to be similarly unsuccessful. Republicans won control of the US House in the recent midterm elections, while Democrats retained their narrow majority in the US Senate. Americans had similarly low expectations following the 2018 midterms, which also resulted in divided government — 63% expected President Donald Trump to be unsuccessful in seeing his proposals enacted, the same survey found four years ago, with 61% saying the same of Democratic congressional leaders.

Just 8% of Americans in the latest Pew poll say they expect relations between Republicans and Democrats to improve in the coming year, similar to surveys conducted following the previous two midterm elections.

About half (48%) of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents expect Biden to be successful over the next two years, Pew found, with 44% of Republicans and Republican leaners saying they expect GOP leaders in Congress to get their programs passed into law.

And while most partisans remain optimistic about the future of their parties overall, a significant minority in each party take a dimmer view. One-third of Republicans and Republican leaners say they’re pessimistic about the future of the Republican Party, higher than following the 2020 election, when 25% felt that way, and also higher than the shares expressing pessimism following the 2016 and 2018 elections. Across the aisle, 28% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents say they’re pessimistic about their party’s future — higher than in 2018 and 2020, but lower than the 38% who said the same following Trump’s victory in 2016.

Americans have reasons to suspect Washington could face gridlock in the coming months. In addition to divided government, both Democrats’ control of the Senate and the Republican majority in the House rest on narrow margins, and the parties are already clashing on spending. House Republicans have also pledged to launch multiple investigations into the Biden administration.

By contrast, there’s broad public consensus in favor of some congressional action, according to a Marquette University Law School poll also released Thursday, which gauged public support for a number of policy proposals “drawn from recent Republican and Democratic congressional policy statements.” A near-universal 92% of US adults — including broad majorities in both parties — say they’d favor Congress taking action to “limit the cost of prescription drugs,” with 84% saying they’d like to see Congress “pass a new voting rights law to protect every citizen’s right to vote.”

Two-thirds or more also support proposals for Congress to increase federal aid to states and school districts to increase teacher compensation (78% are in favor), provide a tax credit for tuition at two-year colleges and technical schools (77%), increase tax credits for low-income workers (75%), increase taxes on incomes over $500,000 (74%), increase production of oil and gas in the US (74%), increase funding for renewable energy production such as wind and solar (74%), create federal subsidies for child care costs (73%), enact laws making it easier for workers to unionize (70%), increase efforts to stop illegal immigration along the southern border (69%) and fund the hiring of 200,000 more police officers nationwide (67%).

A smaller majority expresses support for proposals to conduct a congressional investigation of the FBI (59%) ‚Äčor to provide national funding for vouchers allowing K-12 students to attend private or religious schools (55%), both ideas backed by some House Republicans. About half of Americans (51%) say they’d favor Congress banning transgender athletes from sports competition, with 48% opposed.

Other proposals made by some Republicans have less public support. Fewer than half of Americans say they favor proposals to sharply reduce US military aid to Ukraine (45%), enact a national law banning abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy (41%), impeach Biden (34%), block confirmation of any federal judges nominated by Biden (34%), or require Congress to reauthorize Social Security and Medicare every five years, rather than letting the programs continue automatically (32%).

Two-thirds (67%) of Republicans support impeaching Biden, while 93% of Democrats are opposed. Requiring congressional reauthorization for Social Security and Medicare is unpopular across party lines, with both 60% of Republicans and 77% of Democrats expressing opposition.

The Marquette poll surveyed 1,004 US adults from November 15-22, using a nationally representative online panel. Results from the full sample have a margin of error of +/- 3.7 percentage points. The Pew Research Center poll surveyed 11,377 US adults from November 16-27, using a nationally representative online panel. Results from the full sample have a margin of error of +/- 1.5 percentage points.

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