Disapproval on Budget Debate Puts the GOP at Greater Risk

By Gary Langer

Sep 30, 2013 3:00pm

A new ABC News/Washington Post poll finds the Republicans in Congress at greater risk of political damage in a government shutdown: Sixty-three percent of Americans disapprove of their handling of the budget debate, 13 points worse than Barack Obama’s rating on the issue.

Neither side gets remotely positive scores, indicating plenty of irritation to go around. But Obama’s 41-50 percent approval rating for handling the budget negotiations far exceeds the GOP’s 26-63 percent. The Democrats in Congress fall between the two, at 34-56 percent.

See PDF with full results, charts and tables here.

While these views are highly partisan and ideological, the Republicans are weaker in their base. Seventy-one percent of Democrats and 61 percent of liberals approve of Obama’s handling of the issue. Fewer Republicans or conservatives approve of the GOP’s performance, 56 percent and just 40 percent, respectively.

Notably, even among those who call themselves “very” conservative, fewer than half, 45 percent, approve of how the Republicans in Congress are handling the issue. (Naturally, even fewer in this group, 17 percent, approve of Obama’s approach.)

In the political center, this poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates, finds that 56 percent of independents disapprove of Obama’s handling of the issue. But 66 percent disapprove of how the Republicans in Congress are dealing with it.

The latest results echo ABC/Post results in mid-September, in which 49 percent of Americans said Obama wasn’t doing enough to compromise on a budget plan, while more, 64 percent, said the Republican leaders in Congress weren’t doing enough to compromise. Additionally, just 27 percent in that poll favored using a government shutdown as way to prevent implementation of the new federal health care law.

These views are roughly similar to results in ABC/Post polling after the brief shutdowns in 1995 and 1996. In late January 1996, Bill Clinton’s rating for handling the dispute, 42-50 percent, was essentially the same as Obama’s now; the Republicans’, 20-74 percent, was somewhat worse than now. Overall, today, as then, the president looks to be on firmer ground, the GOP less so.

Additionally, the public by 72-24 percent in 1996 said “partially shutting the government should not be used as a tool in budget negotiations” – again similar to current opposition to using the threat of a shutdown as a way to try to block the health care law.

METHODOLOGY – This ABC News/Washington Post poll was conducted by landline and cell phone Sept. 25-29, 2013, in English and Spanish, among a random national sample of 1,004 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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