Congress’ actual approval rating…

…is well over 90 percent, contra the General Social Survey (via FiveThirtyEight), which puts it at 11 percent.

Now, I’m not saying people actually have faith in Congress as an institution, but I am saying their faith in the institution doesn’t matter. Congressional incumbents are re-elected at a rate over 90 percent, proving that the vast, vast majority of people like their representatives.

So why the huge disparity? Because Congress is such a sprawling institution that it’s impossible to find something not to dislike. If you like Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), you’re probably going to dislike Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.). The diversity of Congress – in terms of its membership, the things it does, and in how it does them – means there will always be a reason for most people to hate Congress. This is its approval rating has been low and probably always will be low.

The same thing is true with “the press.” Judging “the press” means judging The New York Times, Fox News, the Wilmington Advocate, the Albuquerque Journal, Channel 7 in Miami, People magazine, the New Yorker, the Huffington Post, GamePro, and the CBS Nightly News in one category. Everyone is going to have media outlets they hate. But they’ll just say they hate them, ignore them, and go to the outlets they do like.

So the Press as an institution may have an approval rating of only 9 percent, but each individual part of it has a far higher approval rating.

Basically, when judging institutions, people will always think of the parts of the institution they distrust rather than the parts of it they do.

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