Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Political Science

First Advisor

Zoe Oxley




Congress, rule of law, government, approval, opinion, media


Over the past half-century, the United States Congress has become less revered by the American people. The Constitution names Congress as the first branch of government. The framers instituted Congress in Article One of the Constitution to symbolize the importance of the rule of law of the people. Its members were to be chosen members of the public, rather than royalty or nobility, to give the branch a sense of democratic legitimacy. However, during the past fifty years, public opinion of the first branch of government has waned. The reasons for this diminished respect are complex and numerous. In general terms, the public disapproves of Congress due to low regard for the members of Congress, the legislative process, policy output of the body, dislike of Congress as an institution, and external forces such as the media and the economy which cause people to have a poor opinion of Congress. Since the 1960s, public approval of Congress has remained low, in large part due to the reasons enumerated above. Congressional elections in general follow predicable patterns. All congressional elections are affected by the incumbency advantage, issues pertaining to campaign finance, gerrymandering and its affect on party identification, national trends, the state of the economy, and the media. Subsequent chapters to this thesis will answer the following question: are congressional elections influenced by levels of public approval of Congress? An examination of a possible relationship between public opinion of Congress and congressional elections will be furthered by case studies of the 1994, 1998, 2002, and 2010 midterm elections. However, the goal of this chapter is to analyze the appropriate literature pertaining to public opinion of Congress and congressional elections in general.