Majority of Americans Blame Everybody for Shutdown

63% are angry at Republicans, 57% are angry at Democrats, and 53% are angry at President Obama.


The American people are angry about the government shutdown, with 63% angry at Republicans, 57% angry at Democrats, and 53% angry at President Obama.

CNN (“CNN Shutdown Poll: Plenty of blame to go around“):

Most Americans say the government shutdown is causing a crisis or major problems for the country, according to a new national poll.

And while a CNN/ORC International survey also indicates that slightly more people are angry at Republicans than Democrats or President Barack Obama for the shutdown, it is clear that both sides are taking a hit.

The poll, conducted over the weekend, was released on Monday, nearly one week into the partial shutdown over a push by tea party backed GOP lawmakers trying to dismantle or defund Obama’s signature health care reform law.

According to the poll, 63% of those questioned say they are angry at the Republicans for the way they have handled the shutdown.

“But the Democrats are not getting off scot-free. Fifty-seven percent of Americans are also angry at the way the Democrats are dealing with the shutdown. And a 53% majority say they are also angry at President Obama,” says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. “It looks like there is more than enough blame to go around and both parties are being hurt by the shutdown.”

The CNN poll results are similar to those from a new Pew Research Center poll also released Monday and surveys from Gallup and CBS News/New York Times surveys conducted last week, which indicate slightly more people blaming – or angry at – Republicans than Democrats or the president for the shutdown.

These results would seem a pretty good indicator that Republican messaging is doing its job. Despite rather obviously being the prime mover behind the shutdown, using it as a lever to extract something they could not otherwise get based on their share of political seats held, they’ve successfully persuaded a majority of the country that the president and his party’s leaders in Congress are contributing to the problem by an unwillingness to make any move on Republican demands on Obamacare.

It’s not obvious that it matters what”the American people writ large think, however. Presidents and presidential aspirants are the only politicians with any real interest in what a national sample thinks of their job performance. But Obama doesn’t need to win another election and, as  Garance Franke-Ruta argues persuasively, may well be willing to take a short-term hit to his approval in order to preserve the long-term power of the presidency. While his messaging has been less than ideal, his stance that neither the continued operation of the federal government nor the nation’s fulfilling its obligations to its creditors can be allowed to be treated as bargaining chips is reasonable.

Further, while on 38% of Congressmen are in “safe” districts in the sense of winning by blowouts, only 14% of Congressional districts are competitive in general elections. Thus, few Congressional Republicans and Democrats face little real danger of losing their job. Or, more to the point, they main danger to their continuation in office is in failing to please the most rabid members of their party’s base and thereby getting defeated or seriously wounded in a primary fight.

UPDATE: Just after posting I saw an ABC-WaPo poll on the same subject with the same distribution but slightly different numbers: 70% disapprove of Congressional Republicans, 61% disapprove of Congressional Democrats, and 51% disapprove of President Obama’s handling of the negotiations.  The trend is clear: Republicans are, rightly I think, getting more blame. But Democrats have strong majority disapproval and the president has slight majority disapproval. That’s not  good, no matter how you slice it.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. pylon says:
  2. john personna says:

    What I found:

    Post/ABC News poll: GOP is getting blamed for the shutdown

    There’s precedent for these numbers. Political scientists who’ve studied gridlock-driven shutdowns at the state level found much the same thing: The executive benefits and the legislature is punished.

  3. john personna says:
  4. Jeremy R says:

    @john personna:

    From the ABC writeup:

    Most of the changes for both parties come from previously undecided Americans coming to a negative opinion of their work. But a challenge for the Republicans in particular is that their disapproval ratings for handling the situation have increased numerically across the partisan board, among Republicans (+7 points), independents (+5) and Democrats (+9) alike.

    The Democrats, by contrast, receive an additional 9 points of disapproval among Republicans compared with last week, but with essentially no change among independents or Democrats.

    On Obama, political crosscurrents in effect cancel each other out.

  5. James Joyner says:

    @pylon: @john personna: @john personna: Saw that poll via Twitter almost immediately after posting and have updated. I don’t think it changes the analysis.

  6. john personna says:

    The trend is clear: Republicans are, rightly I think, getting more blame. But Democrats have strong majority disapproval and the president has slight majority disapproval. That’s not good, no matter how you slice it.

    It’s good for the President if his numbers, per that Post/ABC poll, are trending positive while Republicans trend negative.

    The trend is his friend, in this case.

    I think the 200 House Democrats calling for a vote on the clean CR will have a continued impact, driving this further.

    It is very clear that one man, John Boehner, is standing in the way of a simple vote to finish this thing. Cue pundits second guessing Boehner’s problems with his radical wing.

  7. john personna says:

    To reiterate that last bit, the “inside baseball” coverage of this shutdown has all been about Boehner’s problem with the Tea Party, how radical they are, how willing they (with goading from Ted Cruz) are to risk disaster.

    That commentary, on “Republican problems,” isn’t going unheard.

    It is shaping this view of who is at fault.

  8. pylon says:

    Dr. Joyner – the way the numbers are going, the Dems (especially Obama) are winning the PR battle. And they should be winning.

  9. al-Ameda says:

    It sure looks like a lot of people are out-to-lunch in this polling – something that Republicans were counting on.

    “Both-sides-do-it-ism” is often a substitute for looking at cause and effect, and reality.

  10. Tony W says:

    To the extent these survey results true, that is exclusively because of the lies and distortion of the Republicans and their media outlets.

    Instead of holding up the survey as a neutral barometer of public opinion, we should instead be holding it up as a measure of the results a concerted ability to cynically manipulate folks into thinking things that are completely untrue. We’ve seen it with skewed polls, “young earth” science, and birtherism,

    Which necessarily brings up the next question: Just how far could this go? How gullible are Americans? Have we found the bottom yet?

  11. john personna says:

    Well, the CNN poll first referenced above hardly aims for the high ground, polling “who are you angry with?”

    There is a call for reasoned analysis, eh?

    Much easier to check off “angry with everyone, for making me answer this stupid question.”

  12. Jeremy R says:

    @James Joyner:

    According to ABC’s write-up, the ABC/WaPo poll has Democrats losing approval from whatever sliver of self-identified Republicans previously had been supportive, while the Republicans are seeing declines from all groups (Reps, Indys & Dems).

  13. C. Clavin says:

    Who cares about the polling….THE PARKS ARE CLOSED!!!
    Oh, the humanity…

  14. OzarkHillbilly says:

    I blame Obama.

    If he was cutting the funding in a rankly partisan way (“Oh… you are a red district. No Federal funds for you!!!!”) this whole mess would have been over before the wkend. But Nooooooooo…. he has to make the pain bi-partisan. Blue district, red district… it’s all the same to him.


    (shhhhh,,,, here’s a hint: they’re gonna impeach you anyway. no matter what you do, you break the law. so fvck ’em)

  15. humanoid.panda says:

    Sargent definetely spins the number a little bit, but there is no doubt this is significant: indepents today are a pretty conservative group, and they object to what the GOP is doing by hude margins.

  16. michael reynolds says:

    Yeah, I agree with some above: the numbers are moving toward the Dems.

    Since this thing started Obama’s negatives have risen 1 point, the Democrats by 5 points and the GOP by 7 points. There’s now a 19 point gap between the disapprove on Obama and the disapprove on the GOP. 19 points is a pretty big number, and it’s growing.

  17. Bob @ Youngstown says:

    The problem with these opinion polls is that they are OPINIONS.
    You know what they say opinions are like ***holes, everyone has got one.

    To evaluate the worthiness of opinion polls, one just needs to remember that a significant number of Americans don’t like Obamacare, but are OK with Affordable Care Act.

    Now tell me how it’s useful to poll Joe Six-pack for an opinion.

  18. rodney dill says:

    @James Joyner: It does seem to be a different poll question. You can disapprove of the Republican approach and still be ‘differently’ angry at the GOP, the Democrats, and the President for the shutdown. It still does track relative close, as I would expect, 70% vs. 63%.

  19. john personna says:

    Daniel Larison over at The American Conservative:

    Americans are overwhelmingly opposed to what the Republicans have already done, a majority is opposed to what they are trying to do (i.e., defund the ACA), and disapproval of Congressional Republicans is equally overwhelming. What case could Republican leaders possibly make that would turn around public opinion when it is against them by a margin of 50-60 points? As it happens, the government hasn’t been funded, and Americans are not “protected” from the provisions of the ACA, so a case asserting that these things have been done will simply make the GOP appear more ridiculous than it is. The longer that the shutdown continues, the worse these numbers are going to get for the GOP. If Republicans “stand pat,” they are likely to be run over.