updated 10/29/2005 10:52:25 AM ET 2005-10-29T14:52:25

Only one-third of Americans give Congress good ratings for its ethics and honesty, according to an AP-Ipsos poll that found more evidence of the public’s longstanding disdain for the legislative branch of government.

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Investigations of two top congressional leaders have drawn more attention to Congress’ low standings, though analysts say other factors such as the Iraq war and gas prices are likely contributors to the dip this year in Congress’ ratings.

Almost half in the poll, 45 percent, give Congress poor marks for its honesty and ethics, and 21 percent said congressional ethics were neither good nor poor.

Congressional ethics have been in the spotlight recently with the probe of stock sales by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and the indictment of Texas Rep. Tom DeLay, former House majority leader, on charges of violating campaign finance laws. DeLay recently notified House officials that he has failed to disclose all contributions to his legal defense fund.

“Public opinion about Congress is at low ebb,” said John Hibbing, a University of Nebraska professor and a co-author of “Congress as Public Enemy.” But Hibbing said he doubts that recent news about Frist and DeLay are big factors.

“Congress always lags behind the other two institutions of government and most other institutions,” he said. “People don’t really like to hear about conflict about important decisions.”

Both parties suffer
Just over a third in the poll, 35 percent, approve of the way Congress is handling its job — down from 44 percent in February, according to the poll of 1,000 adults taken Oct. 3-5. The poll has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Recent polling has shown public regard for Republican leaders in Congress has dipped during the past year, but Democrats are down as well.

“We have the best Congress money can buy,” said Greg Goldstein, a salesman from New York City who is a political independent. “The entire political-economic system is very money-driven.”

Republican pollster Ed Goeas said recently that it’s lucky for the GOP that voters won’t be focused on elections for another 10 months. Republicans are more likely than Democrats to take a positive view of the honesty and ethics of Congress.

“I hear so many people talking about how dishonest they are, but I have a hard time believing they’re as bad as people say,” said Krista Gneiting, a Republican from Caldwell, Idaho. “I have not heard much specifically about Bill Frist and Tom DeLay.”

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