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Poll finds Americans unhappy with Congress; tea party falls

Americans are plenty angry at Congress in the aftermath of the debt crisis, and Republicans could pay the greatest price, a new Associated Press-GfK poll suggests.

The poll finds the tea party has lost support, Republican House Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio is increasingly unpopular and people are warming to the idea of not just cutting spending but also raising taxes -- anathema to the GOP -- just as both parties prepare for another struggle with deficit reduction.

There is plenty of discontent to go around. The poll finds more people are down on their own member of Congress, not just the institution, an unusual finding in surveys and one bound to make incumbents particularly nervous. In interviews, some people said the debt standoff itself, which caused a crisis of confidence to ripple through world markets, made them wonder whether lawmakers are able to govern at all.

"I guess I long for the day back in the '70s and '80s when we could disagree, but we could get a compromise worked out," said Republican Scott MacGregor, 45, a Windsor, Conn., police detective. "I don't think there's any compromise anymore."

The survey, conducted Aug. 18-22, found that approval of Congress has dropped to its lowest level in AP-GfK polling -- 12 percent. That's down from 21 percent in June, before the debt deal reached fever pitch.

Much about the next election hinges on independent voters, the ever-growing group wooed by campaigns for years. These respondents, the poll found, were the least forgiving toward incumbents and shifted substantially toward the need to raise taxes as part of the deficit and debt solution.

Among them, 65 percent say they want their own House representative tossed out in 2012, compared with 53 percent of respondents generally.

The backlash was personal, too. Boehner, the congressional veteran who struggled to win enough members of his own party to pass the debt deal, won approval from 29 percent of the poll's respondents. That's the lowest such level of his tenure.

The tea party, too, took a hit, according to the poll. Unfavorable views of the tea party have climbed 10 percentage points since November, when the movement fueled the Republican resurgence. Of those, 32 percent have a deeply unfavorable impression of the tea party, and just a quarter of respondents say they consider themselves supporters of the party -- the lowest in AP-GfK polling and a dip of 8 percentage points since June.

Asked which should be the main focus of lawmakers trying to solve the budget deficit problem, raising taxes or cutting government services, 53 percent of respondents said cutting services, and 34 percent said increasing taxes. That's a shift toward raising taxes since March, when 29 percent said increasing taxes, and 62 percent said cutting services.

The poll was conducted by GfK Roper Public Affairs and Corporate Communications. It involved land line and cellphone interviews with 1,000 adults nationwide and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4.1 percentage points.

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