Congress Improves Among Hispanics; Obama, SCOTUS Hold Majority Popularity

AP Photo/Senate Television

Popularity of the U.S. Congress, while weak overall, has gained sharply among Hispanics, likely reflecting its current efforts on immigration reform, a new ABC News/Washington Post poll has found. More than half of Americans, meanwhile, favorably rate the U.S. Supreme Court and the president alike.

Congress by far is the least popular of the three, with just 30 percent of Americans viewing it favorably. But that jumps to 56 percent among Hispanics, up by a steep 21 percentage points from November 2011 - the only group in which it reaches majority popularity.

See PDF with full results, charts and tables here.

Separately, 55 percent of Americans overall hold a favorable opinion of the Supreme Court, which is hearing arguments on gay marriage, a major civil rights issue, this week. That's despite some less-than-popular recent opinions; the public divided on the court's ruling on health care reform in 2012 and broadly opposed its 2010 decision on political campaign financing.

Obama, for his part, is seen positively by 57 percent of Americans, near his more than three-year high, 60 percent, in January. That's despite the fact that his job approval slipped from a three-year peak of 55 percent in January to 50 percent earlier this month. The two assessments can differ; the first measures basic goodwill while the latter is more performance-based.

As with Obama, but even more so, Congress gets a better favorability score than its job approval rating - a miserable 16 percent in an ABC/Post poll earlier this month, only 3 points off the record low in nearly 40 years of polling it set a little more than a year ago.

Congress' favorability rating is up by 7 points from late 2011, but well off the majority popularity it enjoyed in the late 1980s.

With the president's encouragement, bipartisan groups in the Senate and House are negotiating on immigration reform, with proposals expected in April. Impetus to the effort came from the presidential election, in which nonwhite voters were key to Obama's victory, including his 44-point win among Hispanic voters.

INTENSE - Intensity of opinion in this poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates, is much kinder to the president and the high court than Congress. Though feelings are more intense about Obama than about the Supreme Court, both split about evenly in strongly positive and negative views (34-30 and 13-17 percent, respectively). In stark contrast, sharply negative opinions of Congress far outweigh strongly positive ones, 41 vs. 7 percent.

Strongly negative views of Congress haven't changed compared with 2011 among Americans overall. But among Hispanics, strongly negative opinions have eased, shrinking what was a 27-point negative gap in intensity (6-33 percent) to an even split now (17-16 percent).

The president, despite holding steady in overall popularity, has lost ground in intensity compared with two months ago. In January, his strongly favorable ratings outpaced his strongly negative ones, then by 13 points, for the first time since 2010. As noted, intensely positive and negative feelings of Obama now are back to essentially even.

PARTY - Not surprisingly, partisan and ideological loyalties play their biggest roles in views of Obama, though differences on the court and Congress are apparent as well.

The president is popular with nine in 10 Democrats and 86 percent of liberals, but unpopular among eight in 10 Republicans, two-thirds of conservatives overall and seven in 10 "strong" conservatives. Feelings are intense on both sides: Two-thirds of Democrats and 55 percent of liberals rate Obama strongly favorably, while about two-thirds of Republicans and very conservatives view him strongly negatively.

Helping to tip the balance in the president's favor, majorities of political independents and ideological moderates see him favorably.

The Supreme Court and Congress alike are less popular among Republicans and independents than they are among Democrats. And while Congress is unpopular with six in 10 or more across the ideological spectrum, the Supreme Court is well-liked by majorities of liberals, moderates and "somewhat" conservatives, but disliked by six in 10 "very" conservatives.

GROUPS - Among other groups, Obama continues to be overwhelmingly popular among nonwhites (83 percent) - the key to his majority popularity overall, given that 53 percent of whites see him unfavorably. Nonwhites, who are more likely to be Democrats, also are more positive than whites about the Supreme Court (slightly) and Congress (broadly, given the shift among Hispanics).

Obama, though seen favorably by majorities across age groups and income brackets, does better among two groups that were important to his re-election - young adults and lower-income Americans.

While positive views of the Supreme Court are similar across income and education levels, Congress is relatively more popular among those with household incomes less than $50,000 and who haven't completed college than their counterparts.

METHODOLOGY - This ABC News/Washington Post poll was conducted by landline and cell phone March 20-24, 2013, among a random national sample of 1,014 adults. Results have a margin of sampling error of 3.5 points. The survey was produced for ABC News by Langer Research Associates of New York, N.Y., with sampling, data collection and tabulation by SSRS/Social Science Research Solutions of Media, Pa.