Though it seems as though congress has always had low approval ratings, Americans' views of the legislative branch actually increased throughout the 90s. According to Gallup's yearly congressional approval ratings, however, that goodwill took a nosedive after peaking at 56% approval in 2011.
This year congressional approval ratings have hit the lowest point ever recorded by Gallup since the company began measuring the metric in 1974. An average of only 14% of Americans approved of the way the U.S. congress handled its job in 2013. Each month of the year saw a congressional approval rating under 20% - another first for Gallup's polling.
This low rating was brought down by November's monthly congressional approval rating of just 9% - the lowest of any month in the Gallup metric's history. That month followed October, the month in which House Republicans shut down the U.S. government in protest over the rollout of the Affordable Care Act (AKA "Obamacare").
Now that the government is up and running again and the botched rollout of the Healthcare.gov website is being corrected, Americans are softening on congress during the holiday season. Congressional approval in December so far has reached a relatively generous 12%.
Throughout congressional approval history Democrats and Republicans have sometimes had wildly differing opinions on congress depending on which party controls the legislature. For the current congress, however, nearly everyone is in agreement. An average of only 16% of Democrats approved of congress' job in 2013, while only 13% of Republicans approved. Independents split the difference with a 14% approval rating average.