Americans Not Buying What Either Political Party Is Selling

Neither political party is resonating with the public right now, and neither is acting in the manner the public would like.

According to a new poll from CNN, Americans aren’t really in tune with the policies being advocated by either political party right about now:

A new national survey suggests there are no winners in the public’s eye when it comes to the constant wrangling between Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill.

A CNN/ORC International Poll released Tuesday indicates that 56 percent of Americans say the congressional Republicans’ policies will move the country in the wrong direction, with 53 percent of the public saying the same about policies of the Democrats in Congress.

“Men and women agree that the GOP policies are a bust, but women are split on the Democratic policies while men continue to dislike them. There is a generation gap as well, with younger Americans tending to favor the Democrats’ policies and older Americans more in the GOP camp,” says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.

The survey was conducted Friday through Sunday, during the congressional standoff between Democrats and Republicans over disaster relief funding threatened to possibly force a federal government shutdown. An agreement preventing a government shutdown was reached late Monday night.

According to the poll, a majority of Americans don’t like either the Republican Party or the Democratic Party and the favorable ratings for the tea party movement are even lower.

The public attitude about most of the major players in politics isn’t very good right now, actually:

  • President Obama’s favorable/unfavorable numbers are at;
  • Speaker John Boehner’s are at 37/39;
  • Mitch McConnell’s are at 23/33;
  • The Democratic Party’s numbers are at 44/48;
  • The Republican Party’s numbers are at 39/54;
  • The Tea Party’s numbers are at 28/53;

This poll comes out on the same day as a new Gallup poll showing that a majority of Americans think that it’s more important for their representatives to compromise to get things done for the country than stick to their beliefs:

A majority of Americans say it’s more important that political leaders in Washington compromise in order to get things done, rather than stick to their beliefs, even as Congress heads for a government shutdown for the second time in less than two months because of partisan disagreements.

Gallup has asked this question three times over the past 10 months, and each time, Americans have tilted toward the “compromise” end of the spectrum. The most recent survey, conducted Sept. 8-11, marks the first time a majority of Americans have placed themselves on the “compromise” end — a “1” or “2” on the 1-to-5 scale. A little more than a quarter (28% in the Sept. 8-11 survey) gave a “4” or a “5” — the “more important to stick to beliefs” end of the scale.

Not surprisingly, the poll shows that those who identify themselves as Republicans or conservatives are more likely to say that it’s more important for legislators to stick to their beliefs. Even among that group, though, there’s a large plurality that tends toward the compromise side of the debate, although it’s likely the “stick to principles” crowd that accounts for much of the political activism we see from these groups.

It isn’t that surprising that we’d see poll numbers like this after the year that we’ve had. Three different times the government has been brought to the brink of a shutdown because of the refusal of the political parties to compromise, and each time the event threatening the shutdown was completely different. After going through it three times, and with one of the those periods lasting an entire months during the summer, it’s no surprise that the public would be so disaffected with both political parties. Partisans on each side will no doubt try to argue that it’s the other guys fault, but one gets the sense that, outside the Washington beltway and the circles of those who think and talk about politics every day, the average American is just looking at Washington, seeing that it isn’t getting even the most basic things done, and blaming both parties for not doing what’s necessary to cooperate.

Unfortunately, as Chris Cillizza notes today, there’s little chance that we’ll see anything approaching bipartisanship from either side for the next year and a half:

1. The two parties in Congress don’t agree on much of anything. It’s hard to see the FEMA funding fight as anything but a debate on principle given the paltry amount of money at stake. (To be clear: We would gladly take the $2.6 billion in question but when compared to the totality of spending by the federal gover­­nment, it’s a paucity.)

What 2011 has proven is that the two parties carry widely divergent views about nearly every issue but especially the right way to turn around the nation’s struggling economy.

Republicans see cutting spending and tackling entitlements like Social Security and Medicare as the right path and anything involving raising taxes as a non-starter. Democrats advocate a combination of spending cuts and tax increases with any major changes to entitlement programs regarded as anathema.

(…)

2. Both parties are waiting until the 2012 election for a sign from voters. Politicians are a reactive species. (While most people deride pols for being reactive, any job in which your career is entirely dependent on the will of the people would probably make anyone reactive.) And, politicians can be forgiven for wondering just what the heck the American public wants right now.

In 2008, voters seemed to send a clear mandate to President Obama as he won 53 percent of the national vote and 365 electoral votes, a massive victory by the 50-50 standards of the past decade. But, two years later, voters handed Obama and his party a major setback — giving Republicans control of the U.S. House and delivering sweeping victories to the GOP at the state and local level.

[D]o voters want more government? Less? Something less clear cut and more situational when it comes to government’s proper role? The truth is that politicians just don’t know the answer. And they are all waiting until the 2012 election for a final — or at least newer — verdict from voters.

Add up points number one and two and you get the death of bipartisanship — at least until the 113th Congress convenes in 2013.

As Cillizza goes on to note, neither party has any incentive at this point to compromise at this point since to do so would be seen as a sign of capitulation by the base. Everything that is happening now is merely a prelude to the 2012 elections, which both parties seem to think will give them a definitive signal from the public as to which direction it wants to go.

But what if that doesn’t happen? What if we wake up on November 7, 2012 to find Barack Obama re-elected and the Republicans holding on to the House and gaining a slim one or two seat majority in the Senate? We’ll be right back where we started fourteen months previously, even if the Democrats do manage to hold on to the Senate. The difference is there won’t be any elections around the corner for another two years and the parties involved will have to figure out how to work together to get things done, which is what the American people said they wanted way back in September 2011.I’m not sure what the answer to that question is, but it’s fairly clear that we really can’t afford another four years of paralysis.

FILED UNDER: Barack Obama, Campaign 2012, Congress, Politicians, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020.

Comments

  1. Hey Norm says:

    Oh boy…another pox-on-both-your-house post.

    “…Partisans on each side will no doubt try to argue that it’s the other guys fault, but one gets the sense that, outside the Washington beltway and the circles of those who think and talk about politics every day, the average American is just looking at Washington, seeing that it isn’t getting even the most basic things done, and blaming both parties for not doing what’s necessary to cooperate…”

    C’mon Doug…you’re a big boy. Who took the Debt Ceiling Hostage? Who just tried to take Disaster Relief Hostage. Which Party in which Congress has invoked more cloture votes and actual filibusters in history? Which party is voting against policies they have support unconditionally before?
    Please quit writing this stuff that pretends to analyze the situation and try actually analyzing it.
    You write for a Blog called Outside the Beltway but your perspective is not substantially different than Cillizza….one of the ultimate Inside the Beltway stenographers.

  2. Norm,

    What I think, or what you think, about the events of the past year isn’t really the subject matter of the post. It’s what the public thinks that matters in this context and, well, they don’t really agree with your partisan interpretation of events.

  3. Hey Norm says:

    Oh…I see my mistake…I read this:
    “…Three different times the government has been brought to the brink of a shutdown because of the refusal of the political parties to compromise…” and mistakenly interpreted it as your description of the past years events. I guess it’s from the Jon Kyl school of writing.

  4. ponce says:

    The Republican lead in Rasmussen’s generic Congressional ballot is down to two points, the smallest gap since the 2010 election:

    http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/mood_of_america/generic_congressional_ballot

  5. Terrye says:

    I wonder about polls like this. There are other polls out there that show Republicans get more support than Democrats do when it comes to dealing with individual issues..but I think that the very fact that people are voting for Republicans in places like New York would make one question the numbers regarding which party gets the most support.

    In truth, people are just in general unhappy with the government. But when it comes to voting, more of them are going for the people with the R.

  6. MBunge says:

    @Doug Mataconis: “It’s what the public thinks that matters in this context and, well, they don’t really agree with your partisan interpretation of events.”

    So..what exactly are you doing here? What is point of this place is not to ENLIGHTEN THE PUBLIC? Are you just doing this to get chicks?

    Mike

  7. MBunge says:

    @Terrye: “In truth, people are just in general unhappy with the government. But when it comes to voting, more of them are going for the people with the R.”

    Except for those recall elections in Wisconsin.

    And that New York special election where a Democrat won a seat that had belonged to Republicans for decades.

    Can we stop acting like the most recent elections are the only ones that count?

    Mike

  8. Eric Florack says:

    A CNN/ORC International Poll released Tuesday indicates that 56 percent of Americans say the congressional Republicans’ policies will move the country in the wrong direction, with 53 percent of the public saying the same about policies of the Democrats in Congress.

    CNN runs a “poll” and gives a slight edge to the Democrats. Why is anyone surprised

    The reason a lot of people suggest the Republicans will move us in the wrong direction is that establishment Republicans have proven to move us in the same direction as Democrats…. only more slowly.

    Look, it’s as simple as this: America doesn’t want compromise with the Democrats.
    Again I say, NY-9.

  9. Eric Florack says:

    Can we stop acting like the most recent elections are the only ones that count?

    Not if the current mood of the country is what you’re about.

    The current mood is anti-government. Does anyone really suppose that will give Democrats an edge, assuming Republicans actually offer up conservatives to vote for, instead of the compromisers?

  10. Sam says:

    “In other words, radical as it sounds, we need to counter the gridlock of our political institutions by making them a bit less democratic.” Peter Orszag

    “I think we ought to suspend, perhaps, elections for Congress for two years and just tell them we won’t hold it against them…” North Carolina Bev Purdue

    Nobody is buying this for sure.

  11. MBunge says:

    @Eric Florack: “Not if the current mood of the country is what you’re about.”

    Yes, because one election that took place this month is 100% more predictive of the national mood than one election that took place 4 months ago. It’s science!

    Seriously, what do we do as a polity now that conservatives have decided that there’s never any evidence of any kind that anything they say or do is wrong?

    Mike

  12. Sam says:

    And no one is any longer buying “Hope and Change”

    Now they are being asked to HOPE for a few more Shekels of CHANGE from the man in the big bird that flies above us. The man who owns the factories. The man who owns the fields.
    The Man has held us down. We will sit on the front steps of the man to protest his success without sharing it with US who have time to protest on the front steps of the man who owns the business we are protesting for more work hours and benefits. You OWE us!

    Sell that!

  13. @MBunge:

    I write about things that interest me and express my opinions where appropriate.

    As for the women, well, if that were true then there’d be a lot more bloggers I bet 🙂

  14. Scott F. says:

    Partisans on each side will no doubt try to argue that it’s the other guys fault, but one gets the sense that, outside the Washington beltway and the circles of those who think and talk about politics every day, the average American is just looking at Washington, seeing that it isn’t getting even the most basic things done, and blaming both parties for not doing what’s necessary to cooperate.

    All this means is that the Republicans have won the perceptions game and won it handily.

    The clear mandate that came with Obama’s victory in 2008 (which Cillizza correctly notes was massive for the times) was for getting (the most basic) things done. Anyone who had read “The Audacity of Hope” or listened to Obama’s stump speeches (“we can disagree without being disagreeable” was in every one of them) had to understand that Obama was interested in pragmatic, sound governance over partisanship. He sold himself as someone who could work across the aisle. As a result, Independents, plus no small number of Democrats, elected him over Clinton first and then McCain because they knew “things” needed to get “done” and success would depend on cooperation.

    From the beginning (from Gates as SecDef to Warren giving the prayer at the Inaugural), Obama tried his damnedest to deliver on that mandate too and there hasn’t been a POTUS in memory who has been so predisposed to find the common ground with the opposition. (To a fault, in the minds of a lot of people on the left, I might add.) In return, the Republicans gave him a swift kick to the groin.

    Bipartisanship is dead. The Republicans not only killed it, but have also managed to divert enough attention away from themselves that the Average American doesn’t even see the bloody shiv in their hands.

  15. john personna says:

    The Democratic Party’s numbers are at 44/48;
    The Republican Party’s numbers are at 39/54;

    Those numbers certainly seem similar, though the GOP probably should worry that they have an honest majority of negatives.

    It makes me think it was a good cycle for an outsider GOP Presidential candidate.

    I wonder why they didn’t find one …

  16. Racehorse says:

    The people realize that there is no difference between the two parties – both are controlled. Just look at the orchestrated debates. Third parties are almost always left out. What we have is “tweedledee and tweedledum”. No real change is going to be allowed: past history is evidence of that. Any leader or candidate who dared go against the controlling powers wound up either dead or having to quit after phony, rigged scandals (Nixon, Wilbur Mills to name a few).

  17. An Interested Party says:

    Any leader or candidate who dared go against the controlling powers wound up either dead or having to quit after phony, rigged scandals (Nixon, Wilbur Mills to name a few).

    Oh my, so Watergate was a “phony, rigged” scandal? Poor, mistreated Tricky Dick…

  18. Ron Beasley says:

    Of course they are right but not for the reasons they think. Politicians of all ideologies are not telling the truth. With oil above $80 bbl there will be no sustained economic growth – no recovery. The only way oil is going to go below $80 bbl is a world wide depression. In that case a short lived recovery may happen but that will increase the price of oil and when it hits 80 again the recovery will come to a screeching halt.
    Greece is eventually going to default and TBF banks are going to fail. The current efforts to bailout Greece are actually an effort to bailout banks, the Greek people would be better off if the country defaulted. The banks are all tied together and when the first one fails we will see a domino effect. All the bank bailout really accomplished was to give us even bigger insolvent banks.

  19. anjin-san says:

    Republicans actually offer up conservatives to vote for

    How are those new conservative governors doing? About as popular as mold. And Bachmann and Perry? Throw that hat into the ring and see just how fast it can sink.

    You can’t fool all the people all of the time.

    (well you can fool bithead all of the time)

  20. Doubter4444 says:

    So, just what are the Democrats supposed to do?
    I think that’s the frustration with these “pox on both houses” posts, Doug.
    It’s a real question… What can the democrats do, EXCEPT completely capitulate to everything the Republicans/Tea Baggers want.

    I’m not being snarky, the right is demanding total surrender of every principle that the Democrats (and most moderates) stand for, and are going so far as to demand radical, unilateral revisions of Social Security, Welfare, Immigration, the separation of Church and State, Abortion, the EPA, the FDA and more.
    Those are facts.
    There are post after post on this forum about the vehement turn to the far right that the party and it’s leadership have embraced.

    Orrin Hatch and Bob Bennett are not even pure enough these days!
    So, again what can the Democrats do to have these guys “work in a bipartisan manner” with them? or “Work to get things done”?
    I’m serious.
    Where is any willingness to compromise?
    And if one side won’t what can be done?
    And why (getting back to Norm’s complaint) is it both their fault, when one side is unwilling to even try?
    There is a crisis looming, if not here already.
    I’m moderate as it comes, but I’m pissed at the fact that we pretend anywhere near equal accountability – and that the far right pretends every problem started on Jan 21 2009.