A new set of data (yes, yes I know, they don’t “do” data…) offer bad, worse, and potentially catastrophic news for Republicans.
Let’s start with the bad:
The Washington Post/ABC News poll finds that Americans disapprove of the way congress and the president have handled the continuing resolution/government shutdown mess, but they really, really disapprove of Republicans.
Some 45 percent approve of Obama’s handling of budget negotiations, up slightly from 41 percent last week. A still larger 51 percent disapproves of Obama, with 39 percent of the public disapproving strongly. Obama’s fellow Democrats have not been as resilient. Fully 61 percent of Americans now disapprove of congressional Democrats (up from 56 percent last week), with strong disapproval rising nine points (to 45 percent).
Republicans in Congress are worse off still. A Post-ABC poll last week found 63 percent disapproving of Republicans, a number that has grown to 70 percent in the past week. Strong disapproval has grown from 42 to 51 percent over the same period.
…The wide unpopularity of Republicans in Congress in budget talks is in large part due to a schism within Republicans themselves. By 59 to 39 percent, conservative Republicans approve of the way their party’s members of congress have handled budget negotiations in combined interviews over two weeks. But Republicans who identify as moderate or liberal split narrowly: 44 percent approval to 49 percent disapproval.
The WaPo/ABC poll was conducted Oct. 2-6 of 1,005 adults, and has a margin of error of plus-minus 3.5 percentage points.
And here’s a Pew Poll along the same lines, showing how dug in partisans are on who should cry “uncle” in the showdown over the budget:
The national survey by the Pew Research Center, conducted Oct. 3-6 among 1,000 adults, finds 44% say Republican leaders should give ground on their demand that any budget deal include cuts or delays to the 2010 health care law. Nearly as many (42%) say it is Obama who should give ground, by agreeing to changes in the health care law.
Even when asked if the only way to end the shutdown soon is for their side to give ground on the health care issue, most are unwilling to back down. A majority of Democrats (58%) say it would be unacceptable for Obama to agree to cuts or delays in the Affordable Care Act, even if this is the only way to resolve the shutdown soon. Roughly the same share of Republicans (54%) say it would be unacceptable for GOP leaders to agree to any deal that does not include cuts or delays to Obamacare.
Notably, Tea Party Republicans overwhelmingly oppose Republican leaders making concessions to resolve the impasse. Nearly nine-in-ten Republicans and Republican leaners who agree with the Tea Party (88%) say Obama should agree to cuts or delays in the health care law and 72% think it would be unacceptable for GOP leaders to agree to a deal that does not include those changes, even if it is the only way to quickly end the shutdown. Among non-Tea Party Republicans, 63% say Obama should agree to changes in the health care law, but only 39% feel it would be unacceptable for GOP leaders to drop their demand for health care changes.
As other recent polls have shown, there is broad public support for a compromise on the government shutdown when explicit tradeoffs and concessions are not mentioned. Fully 61% say lawmakers who share their views about the government shutdown should be willing to make compromises, even if it results in a deal they disagree with; just 29% say lawmakers who share their views should stand by their principles, even if that means the shutdown lasts longer. Yet finding the middle ground on the issue of cuts or delays to the health care law is clearly more difficult.
The survey also finds that Republicans are taking more blame for the shutdown than the Obama administration, but only by a slim margin. By 38% to 30%, more say that Republicans are to blame for the government shutdown than the Obama administration; 19% volunteer that both sides are equally to blame. Two weeks ago, about as many said they would blame Republicans (39%) as the Obama administration (36%) if the federal government shut down.
The Pew poll was conducted Oct. 3-6 of 1,000 adults, and has margin of error of plus-minus 3.7 percentage points.
Now for the worse:
A new poll by United Technologies and the National Journal finds that Americans overwhelmingly oppose the GOP tactic of tying their desire to end the Affordable Care Act to funding the government or raising the debt ceiling:
The latest United Technologies/National Journal Congressional Connection Poll finds little consensus on whom to blame for shutting down the government—38 percent say it’s the Republicans, 30 percent say it’s President Obama, and 19 percent say it’s both.
But public opinion is clearer on the House GOP’s approach: Overwhelmingly, Americans think Congress should fund the federal government and deal with health care separately; and just as strongly, Americans oppose including GOP priorities—even those with which they otherwise agree—in a bargain to raise the debt ceiling.
The results portend political risk for Republicans should they continue to employ their current approach. Americans oppose those tactics, the data show, and if the government breaches its debt limit, triggering broad-based economic turmoil, Americans could hold Republicans responsible.
… Half of the poll’s respondents disapprove of Obama’s handling of negotiations over the shutdown, according to results from the same survey commissioned by the Pew Research Center. But congressional GOP leaders still score worse on this measure: 69 percent disapprove of the way they are handling the budget negotiations, while only 19 percent approve. Congressional Democrats fall in between: 29 percent approve and 58 percent disapprove.
Even though roughly half those surveyed in the current poll think the administration is mainly or equally to blame for the shutdown, and Obama and Democrats are underwater on the issue, Americans—by a vast ratio of more than 2-to-1—disapprove of the House GOP tying the future of the Affordable Care Act to funding the government or raising the debt ceiling.
The poll shows that 65 percent think “Congress should provide the funding to keep the government operating and deal with the health care issue separately.” Just 24 percent think the House “is right to fund the continuing operations of the federal government only if Obama agrees to delay or withdraw his health care plan.”
Democrats are nearly unanimous on funding the government, while Republicans favor the House GOP position, though by a narrower margin (50 percent to 38 percent). Among independents, 66 percent think Congress should fund the government, and 23 percent think House Republicans are right.
The numbers are similar when it comes to the fight over extending the nation’s borrowing limit. Following other questions about ways to reduce the country’s deficit and the perceived ramifications of failing to raise the debt limit, poll respondents were told that congressional Republicans “say they will only agree to increase the federal debt ceiling if President Obama accepts their proposal on other issues.” Interviewers then asked about four GOP policy proposals—some of which have been found to be popular in previous surveys—but respondents said they opposed including every one of them in a debt-limit agreement by at least a 2-to-1 ratio.
Asked whether a “one-year delay for the implementation of President Obama’s health care law” should be included, 31 percent said it should, while 65 percent said it should be dealt with separately. Opposition ran just as strongly for tying “cuts in spending for domestic discretionary programs” and “cuts in Medicare, Medicaid, and other federal entitlement programs” to the debt-ceiling bill, with the poll finding results virtually equivalent to delaying the health care law.
The poll was conducted Oct. 3-6 by Princeton Survey Research Associates International and surveyed 1,000 adults, half via cell phone, and carries a margin of error of plus or minus 3.7 percentage points.
Lastly, the potentially catastrophic:
Usually, the president’s party loses House seats at the midterm election, so the normal expectation would be for Republicans to gain seats. But exceptions can happen. In 1998, Democrats picked up five seats. That rather surprising result came after a rough few years, during which Speaker Newt Gingrich led the way to the last substantial shutdown, lasting 21 days.
House Republicans enjoy an exceptional advantage in the form of gerrymandered districts. In the 2012 elections, Democrats won the national popular vote by 1.5%, but they needed a 7.3% margin to take control. So broadly speaking, opinion would have to swing by about 6% or more for control of the House to become competitive.
It is said that public opinion has not swung as hard against Republicans as in 1995. But that statement is based on questions that ask who is more to blame, Congress or President Obama. President Obama is not up for re-election in 2014. A more relevant number is the generic Congressional preference, which tracks the national vote fairly well. Before the shutdown, three generic Congressional preference polls taken Sept. 23-29 (Quinnipiac, Rasmussen, PPP) show an average of Democrats +6.0+/-1.5%. That’s a swing of less than 5%. This is the last snapshot we have before the shutdown.
More recently, a provocative set of district-level polls was conducted for MoveOn by Public Policy Polling (D). These are partisan organizations, but I note that of major pollsters, PPP had the best accuracy in 2012. Also, even the worst house biases are no more than 3 percent. As we will see, even that is not enough bias to alter the conclusions here.
… The swing was toward Democrats for 23 races (below the red diagonal) and toward the Republican for one race (above the diagonal). The key piece of information is the gray zone. If more than half the points are in that gray zone, then that predicts a swing of >6% and a Democratic takeover. Currently, 17 out of 24 points are in the gray zone.
Since the election is over a year away, it is hard to predict how this will translate to future seat gain/loss. If the election were held today, Democrats would pick up around 30 seats, giving them control of the chamber. I do not expect this to happen. Many things will happen in the coming 12 months, and the current crisis might be a distant memory. But at this point I do expect Democrats to pick up seats next year, an exception to the midterm rule.
Note that in these calculations I did not even include the worst of the news for Republicans. In a followup series of questions, PPP then told respondents that their representative voted for the shutdown. At that point, the average swing moved a further 3.1% toward Democrats, and 22 out of 24 points were in the gray zone. That would be more like a 50-seat gain for Democrats – equivalent to a wave election.