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Republicans Lose Ground vs. Obama in the Shutdown Blame Game

The Republicans in Congress have lost ground against Barack Obama in blame over the government shutdown, with Americans expressing increasing criticism of both parties in Washington, while the president’s avoided that rise in public ire.
By Gary Langer

The Republicans in Congress have lost ground against Barack Obama in blame over the government shutdown, with Americans expressing increasing criticism of both parties in Washington, while the president’s avoided that rise in public ire.

Seventy percent in a new ABC News/Washington Post poll disapprove of how the Republicans in Congress are handling the budget negotiations, up 7 percentage points from a week ago. Far fewer, 51 percent, disapprove of Obama’s approach, essentially unchanged in the past week.

The Democrats in Congress remain between the two: Sixty-one percent disapprove of their handling of the budget breakdown, up 5 points in this poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates.

In another way to look at the results, Obama’s gone from 41-50 percent approve-disapprove last week to 45-51 percent now – a 9-point negative margin then, a similar 6-point negative margin today. The Democrats likewise show little change overall (from a 22- to a 26-point negative gap). But the Republicans have gone from 26-63 percent approve-disapprove to 24-70 percent, an initial 37-point difference widening now to a 46-point negative result.

Most of the changes for both parties come from previously undecided Americans coming to a negative opinion of their work. But a challenge for the Republicans in particular is that their disapproval ratings for handling the situation have increased numerically across the partisan board, among Republicans (+7 points), independents (+5) and Democrats (+9) alike.

The Democrats, by contrast, receive an additional 9 points of disapproval among Republicans compared with last week, but with essentially no change among independents or Democrats.

On Obama, political crosscurrents in effect cancel each other out.

IDEOLOGY – Ideology, as well as partisanship, indicate difficulties for the GOP.  Even among conservatives, 59 percent disapprove of the way the Republicans in Congress are handling the situation, including nearly half of “very” conservatives (47 percent), rising to 68 percent of “somewhat” conservatives. Nearly three-quarters of moderates disapprove as well.

Obama does far better among moderates – 30 points better than the Republicans in approval for his handling of the situation. And he remains far stronger among liberals than the Republicans are among either conservatives overall or the “very” conservatives in their party’s base.

The Republicans also have lost ground at either end of the economic scale, moving from two-thirds disapproval a week ago to about three-quarters now both among Americans with household incomes less than $50,000 a year and among those with incomes more than $100,000.

Obama and the GOP do equally poorly among middle and upper-middle-income adults. But the Republicans are at three-quarters disapproval among women, have experienced a rise in disapproval the past week among young adults, and now are higher in disapproval compared with Obama even among whites, usually a much stronger group for the GOP.

Overall, views now look very much like those after the government shutdowns in 1995-96. In ABC/Post polling in January 1996, Bill Clinton had a 42-50 percent score for handling the situation, the Republicans in Congress 20-74 percent.

Neither seemed to much impact the 1996 election 10 months later, in which Clinton won re-election but the Republicans held the House and Senate alike. The question now is whether the Republicans’ current disadvantage has any long-term effects – a question that may be answered, at least in part, by the length of the shutdown and the extent of the damage it causes.

METHODOLOGY – This ABC News/Washington Post poll was conducted by landline and cell phone Oct. 2-6, 2013, in English and Spanish, among a random national sample of 1,005 adults. Results have a margin of sampling error of 3.5 points. The survey was produced for ABC News by Langer Research Associates of New York, N.Y., with sampling, data collection and tabulation by SSRS/Social Science Research Solutions of Media, Pa.
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