September 13, 2013
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National Monmouth U. Poll: Party Control of Congress Makes no Difference to Public

By Monmouth University Polling Institute

Public approval of Congress is abysmal, which should come as no surprise to anyone who has been following Washington politics over the past few years.

The latest national Monmouth University Poll also finds little difference in opinion for the Democratic-controlled Senate and the Republican-led House of Representatives. Furthermore, Americans think that unified party control of Congress would make no difference.

Three-in-four Americans (76 percent) disapprove of the job Congress is doing. Only 14 percent approve. When asked which chamber has been doing a better job for the country, 18 percent pick the House and 14 percent name the Senate. The majority (60 percent) say both have performed about the same. Unsur­prisingly, Republicans are more likely to say the House (32 percent) rather than the Senate (7 percent) has done a better job. Democrats are somewhat more likely to give the Senate (20 percent) the edge over the House (10 percent). In both cases, though, a majority of partisans don’t see any difference between the two chambers’ performance.

The poll also found that many Americans are unaware that party control of the two chambers is divided. Just under half (49 percent) know the House is run by the Republican party, while 17 percent think it is led by the Democrats and 34 percent do not know. Similarly, just 45 percent know the Senate is controlled by Democrats, while another 23 percent think it is GOP led and 32 percent offer no response on party control.

Interestingly, Republicans are more likely to know that the Senate is controlled by Democrats (58 percent) than know the House is run by their own party (48 percent). The pattern is similar for Americans who identify as Democrats – 52 percent know that the GOP runs the House but just 42 percent know their own party controls the Senate. Taken together, 35 percent of Americans can accurately name the parties that control both chambers of Congress, 13 percent can only name the House majority party and 10 percent can only name the Senate majority party. The remaining 42 percent can name neither.

“Americans simply do not believe that Washington has been working on their behalf. Even though most of those polled are initially unaware of the party split in Congressional leadership, they don’t think that unified party control would make much of a difference when presented with this information,” said Patrick Murray, director of the New Jersey-based Monmouth University Polling Institute. “Not only is Congress broken, but most people seem to believe it is beyond repair.”

After being informed of which party leads each chamber of Congress, 43 percent of Americans say that having the same party control both houses would make no difference to Congressional performance. The remainder are split on whether single party leadership would be better (24 percent) or worse (20 percent) for the country. Another 9 percent say it depends on which party is in control. Among poll respondents who were already aware which party controls each chamber, 32 percent say that single party control would make no difference, 31 percent say the country would be better and 17 percent say the country would be worse. There are no significant partisan differences in the responses to this question.

Americans are also skeptical that the president’s own party affiliation would make any difference in his or her ability to work with a divided Congress. Looking ahead to 2016, most Americans (56 percent) say the new president’s party would not have any impact on improving Washington if Congressional control remains split. Just 20 percent say that a Republican president is likely to make more progress with a divided Congress and a similar 14 percent say that a Democrat would be able to work better with a divided Congress. Republicans (50 percent) have more faith that a president of their own party can effectively manage a divided Congress than Democrats do (33 percent).

“The poll was conducted before the recent bipartisan cooperation on Syria. But agreement on one foreign policy issue is unlikely to have a significant impact on opinion of Washington. The public will be paying closer attention to the upcoming budget and debt ceiling battles as a sign of how the two parties work together,” Murray said.

The latest Monmouth University Poll was conducted by telephone with a national random sample of 1,012 adults age 18 and older from July 25-30. The sample has a margin of error of + 3.1 percent.


The poll was conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute in West Long Branch.



Cicada souvenirs

By Michele S. Byers 

Fall is coming, and with it the spectacular colors of turning leaves. But it’s not here yet, and don’t be fooled by the curled, dead leaves on the tips of many tree branches.

These leaves are actually souvenirs of this past summer’s visit by periodical cicadas (Magicicada septemdecimum), those mysterious red-eyed insects whose deafening chorus filled many wooded areas of this state we’re in for weeks.

Depending on where you live, you may have witnessed the amazing sight of thousands of cicadas from “Brood II” emerging from holes in the ground for the final phase of their 17-year life cycle. After crawling up tree trunks, shedding their last nymphal skin to become adults, and allowing their new wings to harden, the cicadas spent four to six weeks buzzing around on a crazed mating spree. The sound was as loud as a chainsaw in some northern New Jersey neighborhoods.

Clusters of brown, withered leaves on tree branches are evidence that the cicadas’ mating went well and they successfully created the next generation.

If you’re wondering why the leaves died, here’s why:

After mating, female cicadas cut tiny grooves in the slender tips of tree branches and deposit their eggs inside. Up to 25 eggs are laid in each slit – as many as 600 eggs for each female. Some branches are cross-hatched with hundreds of slits.

The eggs hatch out in a few weeks and tiny cicadas the size of a grain of rice, called nymphs, emerge and drop from the trees. They burrow deep into the ground among tree roots. There they will live for the next 17 years on sap from the roots until they emerge again in 2030.

Although many small branches were killed by the periodical cicadas – a process officially known as “flagging” – no lasting harm will be done to the trees and bushes. Think of it as cicada pruning! While oaks reveal extensive flagging, not all trees experience the dieback. For example, tulip poplars at the Bamboo Brook Outdoor Education Center in Chester had thousands of eggs laid in their shoots, but remained green all summer.

Brood II won’t appear again until 2030, but other broods will emerge before then. All told, there are 12 groups of Magicicada with 17-year life cycles, and three groups with 13-year life cycles. The broods rarely overlap geographically. The next time periodical cicadas reappear in New Jersey will be 2021, when Brood X (last seen in 2004) emerges.

Although periodical cicadas get all the attention, they’re actually the least common cicadas in the Garden State. Annual cicadas are everywhere right now, in the waning days of summer, and the woods are buzzing with their pulsing song!

Cicadas sing best in the heat of the day, but other summer bugs serenade at night. During the warm nights of summer and early fall, you can hear crickets chirping and the wonderfully rhythmic song of many katydid species, a native grasshopper that gets its name from the sound it makes.

One species of katydid buzzes out the syllables “ka-ty-did” or “ka-ty-did-n’t.” The song’s tempo corresponds with temperature; on hot nights the insects sing at a quick pace, while on cool nights they barely croak out the syllables.

As summer turns into fall, enjoy nature’s free concerts while they last!

To learn more about cicadas, both periodical and annual, go to To hear sound recordings of cicadas, visit

And to learn more about preserving New Jersey’s land and natural resources, visit the New Jersey Conservation Foundation website at or contact me at


Michele S. Byers is the executive director of the New Jersey Conservation Foundation.




Two River Moment

comment-bond rally eisner 1940 5x7

During the 1940s, the Eisner textile and clothing factory on Bridge Avenue in Red Bank was the site of a huge World War II bond rally. The building is now The Galleria, home to shops, restaurants and offices.

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