Tuesday marks the first day of the 114th Congress, and a new Congress means a new day in politics right? Americans are dubious.
A new CNN poll reveals that most voters are not counting on the Republican majority to break up the gridlock in Washington. In fact, some voters predict partisanship may get even worse.
Just 37 percent of voters expect Republicans to get more done in the next two years than Democrats were able to accomplish. And, only 28 percent believe a Republican-controlled Senate will run more smoothly than a Democratic-controlled one did. Just over 20 percent expect the state of the Senate to actually get worse, and nearly half of those polled—46 percent—reported that they didn't expect any change at all.
It's not unusual for voters to feel as though an election won't drastically change the culture of Washington, where budget battles and bitter debates have long plagued the legislative branch. In 2010, right after Republicans gained control of the House of Representatives, 52 percent of Americans predicted the shift would not make any difference at all. In 2006, voters were a little more hopeful when Democrats won control of both the House and the Senate, and 44 percent said they were optimistic the state of Congress would improve.
Voters today are also not so sure that the 114th Congress will be responsive to what they want. Only 30 percent expect House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to pursue policies that reflect America's priorities. That's a big drop from 2010, and a major shift from 2006 when 51 percent of Americans felt Congress was capable of responding to their needs.
Overall, Republicans are opening the 114th Congress with their own set of agenda items. They have their eye on building the Keystone XL pipeline, negotiating trade deals, and passing tax reform, but the next Congress is up against many of the same obstacles that the 113th Congress tripped over. Boehner will still have to unite his often-divided GOP majority to pass significant legislation, and McConnell will still have to find some consensus with Democrats in order to pass his own bills. Voters might be right—a new Congress might just mean a new cast of characters and the same old game.
The CNN poll was conducted on cell phones and landlines between Dec. 18-21 and included more than 1,000 respondents. The margin of error was plus or minus 3 percentage points.