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Bullish: Congress’ approval rating at all-time low

Jeff Macke

It’s an American tradition to hate Congress, but this is getting out of hand.

In a Gallup poll released yesterday just 7% of Americans reported having “a great deal” or “quite a lot of” confidence in Congress. That’s exactly the same percentage of people who told Gallup they have no confidence in Congress whatsoever and that wasn’t even an option given in the question.

This isn’t just low by the standard of our normal disdain for DC. Seven percent is the lowest level of faith in an organization that Gallup has ever seen in the 41 year history of tracking the trends in America’s attitudes towards various institutions. This is the first time Gallup has ever seen a rating in the single digits at all. For the sake of perspective here’s the full list. Note that banks, organized labor and television news are all but venerated compared to elected officialdom:

Is DC still a threat to the bull market?

In light of the shocking loss of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and America’s shocking impotence in international affairs, Lincoln’s metaphorical “house” of America is not so much divided as just strewn all over the place. The bafflement is less that a Republican lost a primary than that there are still organized political parties at all given the demonstrable contempt we have for elected officials.

The really impressive achievement is that the country is so negative despite stock hitting record highs and unemployment rates falling to multi-year lows. These measures are deeply flawed and those of us who have lived through dire economic periods recognize despair when we see it. The low participation and record “under-employment” of today are problematic but nothing compared to where the country was six years ago.

Hank Smith of Haverford cautions investors against thinking DC has lost its once formidable ability to screw up the stock market. While there’s no telling how the market will react to what promises to be a contentious fall election, the silver lining is that there isn’t a shut-down or debt ceiling donnybrook in the country’s immediate future.

“The good news is we don’t have those self-induced deadlines, whether it was sequestration, debt-ceiling limits, budget, what have you that plagued the economy and the market and created artificial uncertainty that we really didn’t need. We’re past that,” Smith says.