During an appearance on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., discussed the public’s dismal view of Congress.
Stewart began the interview by joking that the public’s approval of Congress ranks "slightly below, from what I understand, hepatitis C." Pelosi responded by joking, "And you wonder who are these people who approve of Congress, these 9 percent!"
She proceeded to draw a contrast between the current Republican-controlled House and the Democratic House she presided over as speaker from January 2007 to January 2011.
"The last time I was here in April of 2009 ... the Democrats were in control and the congressional (approval) rating was 40 percent. Do you remember that?"
We actually didn’t, and when a reader asked us to fact-check it, we did. (She repeated the claim later in the interview.)
We looked in the polling archive of RealClearPolitics.com and found four relevant polls during the month of April 2009. The approval ratings raged from a low of 26 percent approval to a high of 38 percent approval, for an average of just under 32 percent. So neither the average for April nor any individual poll within that month reached 40 percent, making Pelosi’s statement incorrect. (Still, 38 percent is close.)
She’s on somewhat firmer ground if you expand the parameters.
If you look at the months of March, April and May 2009, you’ll find two polls with 41 percent support. Still, all the other polls during that period were lower, and the average for the 13 polls is 35 percent -- still short of the 40 percent mark that Pelosi cited.
This compares to the most recent three polls asking this question, which showed congressional approval below 13 percent.
We should add that if Pelosi wants to tout the public’s approval of Democratic stewardship of Congress, the period she chose was clearly the high point of her tenure. Things went downhill from there. Within six months, approval ratings plunged to the mid-to-low 20s. Within about a year, approval ratings were often sinking into the teens.
Strictly speaking, Pelosi’s incorrect: Congressional approval didn’t hit 40 percent during the month of April 2009. Polls taken that month averaged just under 32 percent. But the rating did exceed that benchmark twice within the 13 polls taken in March, April and May 2009. On balance, we rate her statement Half True.