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Disapproval of Congress: How low can they go ?

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A record 84 percent of Americans say they disapprove of the way the Congress is doing its job compared with just 13 percent who approve of how things are going, according to a Washington Post/ABC News public opinion poll published on Monday.

The disapproval rating for Congress inched up two percentage points since October and reflects a year of lows for Congress that ended in a battle over a temporary extension of the payroll tax cuts for 160 million Americans.

Democrats and Republicans fought all last year over the best way to control the country’s debt and annual budget deficit, as the two parties tried to position themselves for the 2012 elections.

A vitriolic debate leading up to an agreement last summer to allow President Barack Obama to raise the debt ceiling fueled public disgust with Congress and prompted Standard & Poor’s credit rating agency to strip the United States of its stellar AAA rating.

When the parties are considered individually, Democrats in Congress have a 33 percent approval rate, while Republicans have a 21 percent approval rate, the poll found.

Congress will be back in session this week after a holiday break, poised to resume where they left off, with Democratic and Republican negotiators preparing for a new round of talks to extend the payroll tax cut for the rest of the year.

The 84 percent disapproval rate is the highest for Congress in nearly 40 years of polling. The previous high was last October, when 82 percent of poll respondents said they disapproved of the way lawmakers on Capitol Hill were doing their jobs.

The telephone poll of a random national sample of 1,000 people was conducted January 12-15 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

(Editing by Philip Barbara)

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