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Americans watching Republicans' uncertainty over their next speaker are seeing what many in Washington have observed close-up: dysfunction.
By 59-29 percent, more Americans say Republicans' disagreement in selecting a House speaker is a sign of dysfunction rather than reflecting healthy debate within the party, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll. House Republicans have struggled to select a new House speaker following Rep. John A. Boehner's (R-Ohio) surprise announcement of his resignation plans last month. Boehner's No. 2, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), was the heir apparent, but he pulled himself from the race after a significant contingent of caucus members protested his candidacy.
At this point, all eyes are on Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), who could unite the party but is reluctant to enter the race.
Republicans at-large are more upbeat about the process than the broader public; 49 percent see disagreements over the speakership as part of a healthy debate, while 42 percent see dysfunction. By contrast, 59 percent of independents and 72 percent of Democrats say the discord signifies dysfunction among House Republicans.
The negative impressions accompany persistently strong disapproval of both parties in Congress -- albeit disapproval that is stronger when it comes to Republicans. Fully 24 percent approve of the way Republicans in Congress are handling their jobs, while 71 percent disapprove. The ratings are little-changed from March (27-68 percent), though "strong disapproval" is up from 44 to 49 percent.
Democrats' approval ratings are better, but still deeply negative. Some 35 percent approve and 59 percent disapprove of Democrats in Congress, also little changed from March but showing a similar uptick in "strong" disapproval, from 33 to 39 percent.
A big reason the GOP's image is worse continues to be the fact that many members of their own party disapprove. While Democrats approve of Democrats in Congress by 65-31 percent, Republicans split on their own members, with 47 percent approving and 51 percent disapproving. Approval of GOP lawmakers among Republicans had risen to 55 percent ahead of last year's midterm elections and stayed at 52 percent in March of this year, before dipping in the latest survey.
The Post-ABC poll was conducted Oct. 15 to 18 among a random national sample of 1,001 adults, including land-line and cellphone respondents. Full results have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.