The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Who would the public blame for a government shutdown?

eye-opener-logo6Lawmakers showed almost no indication before heading out of town this month that they would reach a deal this fall on the federal debt limit and funding the government.

Failure to compromise on those issues could lead to a partial government shutdown, which led us to wonder: Who would the public blame for such a mess?

It’s too early to tell how that debate would play out, but recent polling provides some useful clues. Below are a few to consider:

* A CNN/ORC poll in March showed that 78 percent of Americans think shutting down the government because of congressional inaction is a bad thing, suggesting the public overwhelmingly frowns on the idea. Yeah, that’s a no-brainer, but it shows how much is at stake for whichever party is perceived to have forced the shutdown. Which brings us to this …

* A Quinnipiac poll last month showed that six in 10 Americans say Republicans and Democrats are equally to blame for gridlock in Washington. However, 23 percent singled out Republicans, while 10 percent faulted Democrats.

* A July Washington Post-ABC poll showed that Republicans could benefit from focusing debate on Obamacare instead of the sequester. Forty-nine percent of respondents opposed the healthcare overhaul, compared to 42 percent who supported it.

* A March Post-ABC poll indicated that Republicans took more blame than President Obama for allowing the sequester to occur — 47 percent to 37 percent. Fourteen percent of respondents volunteered that both were to blame.

*  Gallup polls show that approval ratings for Obama have waned since the start of his second term, with about as many Americans disapproving as approving of him in the latest results. But Congress has fared even worse, with an 81 percent disapproval rating. The yearly average for Congress has reached its lowest level since Gallup began tracking in 1974.

To connect with Josh Hicks, follow his Twitter feed, friend his Facebook page or e-mail josh.hicks@washpost.comFor more federal news, visit The Federal Eye, The Fed Page and Post Politics. E-mail with news tips and other suggestions.