July 2, 2016

Mostly clear

Polls: GOP losing ground with public

The standoff over the government shutdown continues to damage the public’s opinion of congressional Republicans, two new surveys indicate, a finding likely to deepen concern among GOP leaders about the impact the stalemate is having on their party.

A third newly released survey shows that overall approval of Congress has fallen to nearly a record low.

Disapproval of the way congressional Republicans are “handling negotiations over the federal budget” has jumped to 70 percent, a new Washington Post-ABC News poll shows. The poll, taken Wednesday through Sunday, found 24 percent approving of the congressional GOP.

The ratings have worsened significantly over the past week. A Post-ABC poll taken just before the shutdown began showed 63 percent of Americans disapproving of the GOP position.

The reverse is true for President Barack Obama. While approval of his handling of the budget negotiations remains tepid, it has improved since last week, the poll showed. In the most recent survey, Americans narrowly disapproved of Obama’s performance on the budget negotiations, 51 percent to 45 percent. That marked a small improvement from the previous week’s 50 percent to 41 percent.

Many senior Republican leaders warned before the standoff began that it would likely hurt their party with voters, and those concerns have only deepened since government agencies began to close last week. The latest polls likely will reinforce those worries.

But while the public as a whole may not like the stalemate in Washington, representatives on both sides are largely following the desires of their constituents, a Pew Research Center survey indicates. About three-quarters of self-identified Democrats say that Republicans should yield on their demands, while a similar percentage of self-identified Republicans say that Obama should be the one to give in.

The improvement in Obama’s standing comes largely because he has consolidated support among his fellow Democrats. Among those who identified themselves as Democrats in the Post-ABC poll, approval of Obama’s handling of the budget rose to 77 percent, up from 71 percent a week earlier. In both cases, 21 percent disapproved. Obama’s approval rating went up 8 points among self-described liberals and 7 points among moderates.

By contrast, congressional Republicans get divided support from those who identify themselves as Republicans. The 52 percent of self-identified Republicans who said they approved of the way Republicans in Congress are handling the budget was down from 56 percent a week earlier.

The relatively poor ratings that Republicans get from within their own party reflect the deep divisions among Republican voters about which way the party should turn — whether it should seek a compromise with Obama and congressional Democrats or hold firm on insisting that Obama agree to major concessions in return for a budget agreement.

The Pew poll underscored those divisions. Among Republicans who view themselves as tea party supporters, 72 percent said it would be “unacceptable” if the “only way to end the shutdown” would be for Republicans to drop their demands for major changes in Obama’s health care law. By contrast, 39 percent of Republicans who do not see themselves as tea party supporters took that view.

The Pew survey also showed that Republicans receive more blame from the public than the Obama administration for the continued stalemate.

Two weeks ago, before the shutdown started, Americans were almost evenly divided with 39 percent saying in a Pew survey that they would mostly blame the GOP and 36 percent saying they would mostly blame Obama.