Gallup: Approval of Congress Went Up After Gov't Shutdown of 1995-96

By Terence P. Jeffrey | October 1, 2013 | 8:44am EDT

Then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich with then-President Bill Clinton in budget negotiations during the government shutdown in December 1995. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

( - After the federal government shutdown for 21 days from mid-December 1995 to early January 1996, the percentage of Americans who said they approved of the job Congress was doing increased, according to the Gallup poll.

At the same time, the percentage of Americans who said they approved of the job then-President Bill Clinton was doing remained the same, and the percentage who said they approved of the job then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich was doing dropped by only two points.

The government shutdown from Dec. 16, 1995 to Jan. 6, 1996, occurred when the Republican-controlled House of Representatives was trying to get President Clinton to agree to a spending plan that would put the federal government on the path to a balanced budget within seven years.

The Republicans had gained control of Congress in the 1994 elections after President Clinton had tried and failed to enact a national health-care plan that came to be known as Hillarycare--after then-First Lady Hillary Clinton who had led the effort to design the plan and push it through a Democratically controlled Congress.

Before the 1995-96 government shutdown, in polling done Nov. 6-8, 1995, the Republican-controlled Congress had a job approval of 30 percent. After the government shutdown, in polling done April 9-10, 1996, the Republican-controlled Congress had a job approval rating of 35 percent.

Clinton's approval, according to Gallup, was 52 percent in polling done Nov. 6-8, 1995 and was still 52 percent in polling done March 15-17, 1996.

Gingrich's approval had been 37 percent in polling done in June 5-6, 1995, and was 35 percent in polling done Feb. 12-18, 1996.

In the 1994 mid-term elections, the Republicans had won eight seats in the Senate and 54 seats in the House, emerging with post-election majorities of 52-48 in the Senate and 230-204 with one Independent in the House. After the 1994 election, two Senate Democrats, Ben Nighthorse Campbell of Colorado and Richard Shelby of Alabama, switched to the Republican Party, giving the GOP a 54-46 majority in the Senate.

In the 1996 election, the Republicans maintained a 227-206 majority in the House, with two Independents also being elected.

Senate Republicans emerged from the 1996 election with a 55-45 majority.

The Republicans were able to retain their majorities in the 1996 congressional elections even though Bob Dole, the Republican presidential candidate, lost to President Clinton, who was seeking reelection. Nonetheless, Clinton was unable to garner a majority of the popular vote in that 1996 election. The final returns were: Clinton 49.2 percent, Dole 40.7 percent, and Ross Perot 8.4 percent.

Perot was a deficit hawk.

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