Politics

October 22, 2013

Shutdown damaged standing of Republican party

The GOP's image hits an all-time low in a new poll, which faults Democrats, too.

By DAN BALZ and SCOTT CLEMENT
The Washington Post

(Continued from page 1)

click image to enlarge

House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, joined by fellow Republicans, speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Oct. 10, 2013, following a closed-door GOP meeting. he budget confrontation that led to a partial government shutdown dealt a major blow to the GOP's image and has exposed significant divisions between tea party conservatives and other Republicans, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

AP photo

The findings foreshadow continued strife within the Republican coalition, as establishment and tea party wings vie for superiority. What the survey cannot predict is how the damage to the GOP will affect its chances of winning control of the Senate or holding its House majority in 2014. Democrats have an eight-point advantage in House races among voters nationally, according to the poll, but based on history, that lead is not predictive of a change in House majority.

The confrontation has had a corrosive effect on attitudes about the direction of the country, the workings of government and the image of elected officials. The percentage of Americans who say the United States is seriously off track rose from 60 percent in July to 68 percent today — the highest in more than a year.

Overall approval of Congress stands at 12 percent in the new survey, with 85 percent disapproving — 70 percent strongly. That represents the most negative expression toward Congress in almost a quarter-century of Post-ABC polling. Congressional approval at the time of the last government shutdown, in 1996, was 31 percent.

In many ways, what has happened in the aftermath of the shutdown is a repeat of the damage that occurred two years ago after a long fight over raising the debt ceiling led to a messy and mostly inconclusive agreement.

Three-quarters of all Americans say they are dissatisfied with the way the political system is working, and four in 10 say they are very dissatisfied. That level of dissatisfaction is only a few points lower than it was in the late summer of 2011.

The percentage of those who expressed anger about the way the government is working is just as high as it was after the earlier debt-ceiling debacle. Today, nearly eight in 10 express some dissatisfaction with the way things are working in Washington and a third say they are angry. Republicans express more anger than Democrats, and tea party Republicans show the most.

Americans say that both Republicans and Democrats in Congress are looking out more for themselves than the country, although they are more inclined to say that about the Republicans. Obama fares far better, with a bare majority saying that in general he is more interested in doing what is best for the nation.

Looking ahead, the poll found that almost nine in 10 Americans consider the shutdown a sign of broader problems in the political process in Washington. Percentages almost as large say the shutdown hurt the U.S. image in the world, damaged the morale of federal employees and harmed the economy.

A bare majority supports the agreement to end the shutdown, which included a Republican decision not to try to change the health-care law. On this question, majorities of Republicans and Democrats take opposite sides, with a majority of Republicans saying they oppose the deal — although more than a third support it.

Congress and the president could be back at an impasse early next year if budget negotiators cannot find a long-term resolution. Just over a quarter of all Americans expressed confidence that the two sides will be able to agree, with most of them saying they are just "somewhat" confident. The rest are more pessimistic, and four in 10 say they are not at all confident that another crisis can be avoided.

 

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