On Debt Ceiling, GOP Lawmakers Get Different Message From Base Than From General Public
If you want to understand why Republicans in Congress are acting like they are, just look at the polls.
A new CNN/ORC poll shows the public seems to be lining up behind President Obama on the question of raising the debt ceiling, especially when compared to the idea of making inroads against the Affordable Care Act. At the same time, though, the poll shows that the poll signals that Republicans are getting from their own base are radically different from the country as a whole, and likely to ensure that they are unlikely to budge from their current position anytime soon:
As the likelihood grows that the fight over the government shutdown will merge with a fight to raise the debt ceiling, a new poll shows Americans are against defaulting on the nation’s debt over Obamacare.
Asked what is more important for Congress to do, 51 percent said it was more important for Congress to raise the debt ceiling, compared with 43 percent that said it was more important to delay Obamacare, in a CNN/ORC International poll out Wednesday.
Americans believe it would be a “bad thing” to default on the debt, 56 percent to 38 percent.
Republicans would also get the blame if the debt ceiling was not raised, the poll found. Fifty-three percent of those surveyed said they would blame Republicans, while 31 percent said they would blame President Barack Obama. Ten percent said they would blame both.
Therefore, this poll would seem to suggest some good news for the President in that the public seems to be siding with him in the ongoing standoff with the Republicans. However, that doesn’t mean we’re likely to see the GOP folding any time soon. Read deeper into the poll and you’ll find that, while a majority of Americans (56%) believe it would be a bad thing if the debt ceiling were not raised, the numbers are almost completely reversed for Republicans, a majority of whom (52%) believe it would be a bad thing if debt ceiling were raised. Furthermore, while a majority of Americans (53%) would blame Republicans in Congress if the debt ceiling were not raised, a majority of Republicans (57%) would blame the President. Finally, while 51% of Americans think its more important to raise the debt ceiling than to delay the effective date of the Affordable Care Act, an even bigger majority of Republicans (61%) believe the exact opposite.
The longer this government shutdown goes on, and the closer we get to the drop dead date for the debt ceiling, the more important public opinion is likely to be in determining how this situation plays itself out. At the moment, both sides believe that the public will end up on their side in the dispute. Democrats, no doubt, rely upon the slew of polls prior to the shutdown that tended to show that the GOP would receive more of the blame for a shutdown than the President or Congressional Democrats. Republicans, on the other hand, continue to cite the polls that show, as they have for most of the time it has been law, the relatively negative public perception of the Affordable Care Act. If polling starts to show the public moving heavily in one direction or another, the conventional wisdom goes, then the party on the losing end of the public relations game can be expected to be the one that ends up conceding to bring a quick end to a crisis that is causing damage to their overall public image. As with the debt ceiling, though, Republicans are getting very different messages from their base than the national polls are telling us. Given the fact that many Republican Members of Congress are in districts where they face a greater risk of a challenge from the right than they do from a challenge from the right or the center, many House Republicans have an incentive to stand their ground. As long as they continue to believe that, it seems like we’re headed for more confrontation and gridlock.