Less than 24 hours after the Senate reached a compromise ending the short-lived shutdown of the federal government, NBC News and their partners at SurveyMonkey have results from a poll asking Americans who they blame for it happening. And, hey, guess what?! Democrats blame President Trump. Republicans blame Democrats. And the great big world keeps on spinnin’.
I mean, this isn’t even subtle. Democrats in Congress are blamed by 85 percent of Republicans (and 39 percent of respondents overall). Trump is blamed by 62 percent of Democrats — because another third blames congressional Republicans. (Overall, 38 percent blame Trump and 18 percent blame Republicans.) Independents, as is usual in 2018, are more split, but generally blame Republicans and Trump more than the Democrats.
Compare those findings with a recent Quinnipiac poll asking people for their opinions of Trump and the two parties. The number of Republicans who disapprove of the Democratic Party is 85 percent — precisely the same percentage that blames the Democrats for the shutdown. Ninety-three percent of Democrats disapprove of Trump; 95 percent of Democrats blame Trump or the Republicans for the shutdown.
Independents hate everyone.
We’ll note that a recent Post-ABC News poll found Trump and the Republicans were 20 points more likely to be blamed for a shutdown (should it happen) than Democrats. But it’s not as simple as it appears. Of those who blamed either Trump and the GOP or the Democrats (excluding those who said both, neither or that they didn’t know), Trump and the Republicans were seen as the likely culprits by 63 percent of respondents. The Democrats were seen as responsible by 37 percent.
In light of that, the NBC-SurveyMonkey poll isn’t that far off: Asked to pick between the three groups, Trump or the Republicans were identified as culpable by 56 percent of respondents combined. The Democrats, by 39 percent.
So the Democrats came out slightly worse after the shutdown than before, though certainly within the margin of error. Republicans in Congress got lucky: Trump ended up taking far more of the blame.
There are two ways to look at this. One is to assume Republicans and Democrats read news articles about the causes of the shutdown and the rationales offered by both parties for what was going on, determining, after weighing the evidence, that the shutdown was rightly the fault of the opposing party — remarkably, the same assessment most of those individuals had even before the shutdown began.
The other possibility is the complicated motivations behind the failure to renew government funding past Friday ended up being viewed largely through the existing lens of partisanship and, asked by pollsters to evaluate the aforementioned conflicting rationales, poll respondents defaulted to their partisan positions.
Sort of a glass-is-half-full question for faith in democracy.