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Associated Press
Congress has vacated the U.S. Capitol for its summer recess, and a poll reveals fading expectations for the rest of the year.

And don’t come back, most Americans say to Congress

– Congress has checked out, and the American people have noticed: Three-quarters of Americans doubt the federal government will address the important problems facing the country this year, according to a new Associated Press-GfK poll.

All told, only 28 percent of Americans think the nation is heading in the right direction, the lowest level in August of an election year since 2008. It’s about on par with 2006, when Democrats took control of the U.S. House amid a backlash to the Iraq war.

This time around, it’s not clear whether either party will benefit from the disaffection.

One-third say they hope Republicans take control of Congress outright this fall – which the GOP can accomplish with a net gain of six seats in the U.S. Senate while holding the U.S. House. The same share want to see Democrats lead Congress – a far less likely possibility.

The final third? They say it just doesn’t matter who’s in control.

There are some signs in the new poll that Republicans have gained ground as the height of the campaign approaches. In May, they trailed Democrats a bit on who ought to control Congress.

Partisans are about equally likely to say they’d like to see their own in charge of Congress after Nov. 4, with about three-quarters in each party saying they hope their side winds up in control. Democrats are a bit less apt to say they want their own party to win than they were in May – 74 percent in the new poll, compared with 80 percent then.

And the GOP now holds narrow advantages over Democrats on handling an array of top issues, including the economy, immigration and the federal budget.

But neither party is trusted much to manage the federal government, with 27 percent having faith in the GOP and 24 percent relying on Democrats. More people, 31 percent, say they trust neither party to do the job.

Confidence in the federal government’s ability to make progress on the important problems and issues facing the country in 2014 has fallen since the start of the year, with 74 percent now saying they have little or no confidence. That’s a slight change from the 70 percent who said so in a December AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research survey.

That shift in confidence stems from a drop-off among Democrats. While 56 percent lacked confidence in December, 62 percent say the same now.

Overall, few express faith in those currently on Capitol Hill. Just 36 percent say they’d like to see their own member of Congress re-elected; 62 percent say they want someone else to win this November. So far, just three House incumbents have been ousted in primaries this year, and none in the Senate.

The congressional approval rating, 13 percent in the new poll, lags behind President Barack Obama’s 40 percent.

Though the economy pushed the nation’s “right direction” figures to historic lows in the fall of 2008, that does not seem to be the culprit in the new poll. About a third (35 percent) say the economy is in good shape, about the same as in May, and 58 percent say the economy has stayed about the same in the past month.

The decline in optimism about the country’s path in the new poll seems to mirror that in October 2013 and August 2011, when congressional inaction led to the threat of a government shutdown in 2011 and a partial one in 2013.

Among Democrats, the share saying the nation is heading in the right direction dipped 11 points since May to 49 percent, while among independents, it’s down slightly to 23 percent.

Among Republicans, the 9 percent saying the country is heading the right way is similar to that in May. The October 2013 and August 2011 declines in right direction were also driven by sharp drops among Democrats and independents.

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