The 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 supporters and other Republicans, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.
The survey highlights just how badly the GOP hard-liners and the leaders who went along with them misjudged the public mood. In the aftermath, eight in 10 Americans say they disapprove of the shutdown. Two in three Republicans or independents who lean Republican share a negative view of the impasse. And even a majority of those who support the tea party movement disapprove.
Shutdown damages Republicans, with plenty of pain to go around
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Overall, the shutdown produced widespread political fallout. Dissatisfaction with Congress, elected officials and the workings of the political system has
increased. An overwhelming majority of Americans say the budget dispute damaged the U.S. economy and the nation’s image in the world. A sizable majority lacks confidence that another crisis can be averted when the current agreement runs out early next year.
Congressional Democrats also sustained damage to their image. More than six in 10 respondents disapprove of how they handled budget negotiations, and unfavorable ratings of the party have risen to a record high of 49 percent. Still, President Obama’s overall ratings have held steady. Almost half of all Americans approve of the way he has handled his job, and an almost identical number disapprove.
There was little in the findings for the GOP to feel good about. The party’s image has sunk to an all-time low in Post-ABC surveys, with 32 percent of the public saying they have a favorable opinion and 63 percent saying they have an unfavorable view. Almost four in 10 Americans have a strongly unfavorable view of the GOP.
The tea party fares just as badly. Barely a quarter of the public has a favorable image of the movement, the lowest rating in Post-ABC polling.
The shutdown occurred after Republicans tried to add the defunding of Obama’s health-care law to a short-term measure to keep the government running, then followed with other proposals that were rejected by the Democratic-controlled Senate and the president. Only when facing a deadline over the government’s ability to borrow money to pay past bills was there an agreement to end the shutdown and allow borrowing until early next year.
Asked who they consider responsible for the impasse, 53 percent of poll respondents cite Republicans, 29 percent blame Obama and 15 percent fault both sides equally. Republicans who support the tea party movement overwhelmingly blame Obama for what happened, but among Republicans who do not back the tea party, almost as many cite congressional Republicans as name Obama or both.
Perceptions of the way Republicans handled the budget negotiations grew steadily worse through the weeks of confrontation, rising from 63 percent disapproval on the eve of the 16-day shutdown, which began Oct. 1, to 77 percent disapproval by the time it ended. Nearly three in five Republicans disapprove of their party’s handling of the negotiations.