October 7, 2013

A new Washington Post/ABC News poll shows that disapproval of the GOP’s handling of the budget has jumped to 70 percent. Meanwhile, approval of Obama’s handling of it has ticked modestly upwards.

Only 24 percent of Americans approve of the GOP’s handling of the budget, after a week of battling over the shutdown. Only 23 percent of independents approve, versus 73 percent who disapprove. Among moderates, those numbers are 22-73. That’s nearly three fourths of independents and moderates disapproving. (While independents disapprove of Obama’s handling of it, the numbers are far less lopsided; moderates overall approve of his handling.)

But what’s even more striking is the degree to which even Republicans are divided over the GOP’s handling of all of this, with approval being largely concentrated among conservative Republicans.

This way of cutting the data is made possible because the Post polling team asked the question twice over the last couple of weeks and was able to combine the data, resulting in a larger sample that allowed for more fine-grained cutting of it. Here’s the key conclusion:

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.

This ideological split within the Republican party comes into sharper focus when looking at the most conservative party members. Republicans who describe themselves as “very conservative” approve of Republicans in Congress by 68 to 32 percent. Those who are just “somewhat conservative” split 51 to 45 percent in two weeks of combined poll results.

On balance, only “conservative” and “very conservative” Republicans largely approve of the GOP performance. Moderate Republicans tilt against it and “somewhat conservative” Republicans are split.

Meanwhile, a new CNN poll finds 63 percent are angry at Republicans for the shutdown, versus 53 percent who are angry at Obama. There’s little question that Obama, too, will take a hit amid these crises. But he isn’t running for reelection, and Republicans look very likely to take a substantially bigger hit.

As I’ve noted here before, it’s very possible broader public perceptions of Obama and Republicans — on topics such as which side is really on the side of the middle class and which side is genuinely committed to constructive governing — will shape public views of the shutdown. Given that polling at the very start of the shutdown suggested the middle of the country views Republicans harshly on both of those scores — and is now overwhelmingly disapproving of the GOP’s handling of the shutdown — there’s some evidence to suggest this may be what’s beginning to happen.

Greg Sargent writes The Plum Line blog, a reported opinion blog with a liberal slant -- what you might call “opinionated reporting” from the left.