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AJC poll reveals Georgians’ concerns that Congress cannot overcome division

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) speaks at a news conference on Capitol Hill. (Yuri Gripas/Abaca Press/TNS)

Two out of every three Georgia voters say they have lost confidence in the ability of Republicans and Democrats in Congress to work together, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s latest poll.

Slightly more than half of all voters polled, 54%, have an unfavorable opinion of Congress. More Republicans, 37%, look favorably on Congress than Democrats, of whom only 28% said they have a positive view of federal lawmakers.

The poll of 860 registered voters in Georgia was conducted Jan. 9-20 by the University of Georgia’s School of Public and International Affairs. The margin of error is 3.3 percentage points.

Its results highlight the negative perceptions voters have about members of the U.S. House and Senate, where partisan divides have slowed down and reshaped debates on issues such as military spending, funding the federal government, guns and abortion. Republicans and Democrats are currently divided over how to move forward as the nation reaches its borrowing limit, known as the debt ceiling.

Republicans have said that no increase of the debt ceiling will be allowed unless it is packaged with agreements on how to limit future federal spending. Democrats say the debt ceiling should be lifted as a stand-alone issue, much as was done when Republican Donald Trump was president.

Georgians appear pessimistic concerning whether Democrats and Republicans will be able to work out agreements.

Only about 3% of respondents said they had a lot of confidence that the two parties will be able to work together in a bipartisan way over the next two years. An additional 28% said they had some confidence. Sixty-seven percent said they had no confidence.

Cartersville resident Charlotte Profit said she feels frustrated by what she sees in Washington, which often depicts a Congress that doesn’t seem to be focused enough on issues that voters at home care about, such as the economy and health care.

“Being in my particular age group with friends of mine, we all talk about it,” the 71-year-old said. “Most of the things, unfortunately, that we discuss is that it sure was hard to get out of bed this morning. Or the price of eggs is killing us.”

More visibility from members of Congress could help, Profit said. She lives in the 11th Congressional District but said she doesn’t know much about her representative, Republican Barry Loudermilk.

“The most I know about Loudermilk is a sign on somebody’s yard, as opposed to him coming into particular neighborhoods and finding out exactly what we think or how we feel,” she said. “Politics is a ghost entity to most of us.”

Loudermilk, who lives in Cassville, said Congress has long been plagued by low approval numbers.

Past surveys agree.

Congress’ favorability rating hasn’t topped 40% since 2009, according to poll averages RealClearPolitics started keeping that year. From 2009 to present, the average has been 26%.

Loudermilk is hopeful that changes conservative lawmakers insisted upon as a condition for allowing Kevin McCarthy to become speaker will increase transparency and boost voter confidence.

“We also have to make sure that what we prioritize is not driven politically but it’s the agenda of the American people,” he said. “We are putting into place a system that will really test that. The rules that we have adopted here align us more with what the Framers of the Constitution had in mind in that it empowers every individual member.”

By allowing rank-and-file members to have more input in shaping bills, new ideological debates could be raised on the House floor.

A majority of Georgians who responded to the AJC poll, 54%, said that it is most important for elected officials to find ways to compromise. But more than a third, 34%, said the priority should be to stand on principle, even if it means legislative gridlock.

Among Republicans, 48% said elected officials should stick to their principles, and just 40% said compromise was more important.

Conyers resident Lateonia Mayweather was among those who said compromise was preferred, but it depends on the issue at hand.

“Across the board, on a broad perspective, it would be great to compromise to find solutions,” she said. “Especially on things that impact a majority of Americans where a majority of Americans can agree on.”

Issues such as making higher education more affordable and lowering the price of gasoline are places where Congress should be able to reach agreement, she said. But other issues such as voting rights and abortion are more ideological, and she would expect parties to stay entrenched on their positions.

Mayweather said the best way to get members of Congress to work together more often is to remove the money in politics that floods in through super PACs and deep-pocketed donors.

“I think a lot of them, they seem to me they’ve been bought by big money and high-dollar donors,” she said. “And it doesn’t matter what day-to-day working people and regular voters have to say about it, even though they supposedly are making laws impacting our lives.”


© 2023 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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