A new high of 74 percent of Americans disapprove of the way the Republicans in Congress are handling Washington’s budget crisis, up significantly in the past two weeks and far exceeding disapproval of both President Obama and congressional Democrats on the issue.
The latest ABC News/Washington Post poll finds that criticism of the GOP’s handling of the budget dispute has grown by 11 percentage points since just before the partial government shutdown began, from 63 to 70 and now 74 percent – clearly leaving the party with the lion’s share of blame. Indeed 54 percent now “strongly” disapprove.
By contrast, 53 percent disapprove of Obama’s work on the issue, essentially flat since the crisis came to a head and a broad 21 points lower than disapproval of the Republicans. Fewer, as well, strongly disapprove of Obama’s performance, 39 percent.
The Democrats in Congress, for their part, remain positioned between the two: Sixty-one percent disapprove of their handling of budget talks in this poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates, unchanged from last week and up 5 points from the week before.
Wide to start, the negative gap between approval and disapproval of the Republicans on this issue has grown from 37 to 46 to 53 points across the past three weeks. That compares to 9-, then 6-, now 11-point negative gaps for Obama, and what’s now a 28-point gap for the Democrats.
GROUPS – While vast partisan differences continue to define these views, the GOP suffers from disproportionate weakness in some key groups. Notably, for the first time this week numerically fewer than half of Republicans – 49 percent – approve of the way their party’s representatives in Congress are handling the budget talks. Obama, by contrast, gets 71 percent approval in his own party. (The Democrats in Congress get 61 percent in-party approval.)
Further, while 58 percent of political independents disapprove of Obama’s work on the issue, that soars to 76 percent disapproval for the GOP’s approach.
In terms of ideology, 59 percent of conservatives disapprove of how the Republicans in Congress are handling the issue, despite their generally closer alignment with GOP policies. Obama’s disapproval among liberals is far lower – 32 percent. And moderates roughly divide on Obama’s approach (49 percent disapprove), while broadly criticizing the Republicans, with 80 percent disapproval.
Among other groups, the gap between Obama and the Republicans is substantial across gender and income groups alike. And again he’s got a better approval rating on the issue than the Republicans’ even among whites (34 vs. 22 percent), a group Obama lost by 20 points in the 2012 presidential election.
Views ever more closely resemble their levels after the government shutdowns in 1995-96. In ABC/Post polling in January 1996, Bill Clinton had a 42-50 percent approval-disapproval rating for handling the situation, compared with Obama’s 42-53 percent now; and the Republicans in Congress received a 20-74 percent rating, almost identical to their 21-74 percent this week.
That result might give some pause to prognosticators who suggest that criticism of the GOP today will spell losses for the party in the 2014 midterm elections, just more than a year off. No such impact seems readily apparent in the 1996 election: Ten months after those shutdowns, Clinton won re-election, but the Republicans held the House and Senate alike. Now, as then, what may matter most is not just today’s blame, but the eventual resolution of the crisis, and the extent of damage done en route.
METHODOLOGY – This ABC News/Washington Post poll was conducted by landline and cell phone Oct. 9-13, 2013, in English and Spanish, among a random national sample of 1,010 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.