Voters Would Blame Republicans For Government Shutdown, Poll Shows

Some Republicans are threatening a government shutdown over funding of Planned Parenthood, but a new poll shows that it would be a big political risk for Republicans.

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As some Republicans plot to force a showdown over Federal funding to Planned Parenthood that could lead to another government shutdown, a new poll shows that Americans who blame the Republican Party if the dispute came to the point that the government shut down on October 1st:

A plurality of voters would blame Republicans in Congress for a government shutdown this fall, according to a poll released Monday by Quinnipiac University.

Forty-one percent said they would blame the GOP, and a third of people said that Democrats and President Obama would be responsible for a shutdown.

Seventeen percent said both parties would be equally responsible, and 9 percent said they don’t know which party would take the blame.

Broken down by political party, only 9 percent of Republicans polled said the GOP would be blamed, while nearly two-thirds of them said Democrats and Obama would be blamed.

Nearly 80 percent of Democrats surveyed said Republicans would be blamed for a shutdown, and only 6 percent said members of their own party would be responsible.

When lawmakers return to Capitol Hill next week after their annual August recess, they will only have about 12 days in session before the deadline to fund the government.

Congress must pass new legislation to fund the government by Oct. 1.

Conservatives are calling for using a spending bill to defund Planned Parenthood over videos that an anti-abortion group has been releasing showing officials discussing the handling of fetal tissue.

A group of 18 House conservatives notified Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) in late July that they wouldn’t support any legislation that continues to fund Planned Parenthood.

These numbers, of course, aren’t very different from the ones that we saw two years ago when Ted Cruz and a small group of Congressman, assisted by a grass roots effort led by organizations such as Senate Conservatives Fund, vowed to push for a government shutdown at the end of the Fiscal Year unless the new budget defunded the Affordable Care Act. Since the law was set to go into effect on October 1st of that year with the launching of the marketplace websites, many of these groups believed that the Fiscal Year 2014 Budget would be their last real hope of pushing back against the law unless Republicans managed to win the White House in 2016. At the time, polling showed that the public was overwhelmingly against the idea of a shutdown and many top Republicans, including Mitch McConnell, John Boehner,  former Oklahoma Senator Tom Cotton,  former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, and others were openly critical of Cruz and the others who were backing that proposal. In the end, though, they were unable to resist the small contingent of Tea Party aligned Members of Congress who refused to pass any budget, or even a Continuing Resolution, that didn’t include “defunding” for Obamacare. As a result, we went into a shutdown that lasted more than two weeks and ended up being a public relations disaster for the Republican Party the impact of which was only discounted because of the fact that the rollout of the websites for the Affordable Care Act turned out to be an administrative disaster that lasted well into the holiday season. At the very least, though, it is fair to say that Republican came out of that showdown as losers. Not only did they suffer in the polls, but they didn’t get anything that Cruz and his band of intractable ideologues were asking for to begin with.

With that lesson behind them, as well as the lessons of previous government shutdowns during the Clinton Administration, one would think that Republicans would have learned their lesson at this point. As this poll shows, they likely would not win the public relations battle if their effort to defund Planned Parenthood led to a government shutdown, and it’s also unlikely that they would accomplish their goal in the end when the inevitable deal to resolve the showdown is made. At the same time, though, it’s worth noting that funding for Planned Parenthood and abortion are both hot button issues on the right, so it would difficult if not impossible for Congressional Republicans to simply ignore the matter. The politically smart thing to do, of course, would be to allow the vote to take place and then, when it is likely ultimately defeated int he Senate through a Cloture Motion, to pass a clean budget and live to fight another day. That way, the right wing of the party gets its vote and they get to use the issue against Democrats in the 2016 elections.

No doubt, the Republican leadership in the House and Senate is hoping that this, or something like it, is how this matter ends up getting resolved. Another shutdown would be disastrous for the GOP, and even more so heading into a Presidential and Congressional election year. Nonetheless,it was also obvious in the late summer of 2013 that a shutdown over Obamacare would have been political suicide and, despite the fact that the leadership clearly didn’t want it to happen, that’s exactly what we got. It’s also worth noting that the budget will be being dealt with at the same time as the vote on the Iran nuclear deal, which now seems certain to survive an attempt to override President Obama’s veto and may not even get to an up-or-down vote in the Senate. In that case, conservatives on the Hill may be less inclined than usual to compromise with the Administration. A shutdown would be bad for the GOP, obviously, but unless you believe Mitch McConnell and John Boehner have more control over their respective caucuses than they did two years ago, you cannot discount the possibility that it might happen.

FILED UNDER: 2016 Election, Deficit and Debt, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held 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. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Jon says:

    Former Senator Tom *Coburn*, not Tom Cotton. Although I do like the sound of “former Senator Tom Cotton.”

  2. DrDaveT says:

    To me, the fascinating information here is not who the public would blame, but the total inability of Republicans to guess who the public would blame. Seriously, only 1 in 11? The base’s disconnect with reality is reaching autism spectrum levels.

  3. legion says:

    @DrDaveT: Seriously – I think _every_ poll about this has _always_ shown the public would blame the Republicans, all the way back to that idiot Gingrich. I think the lesson here is that Republicans are illiterate.

  4. Mark Ivey says:

    Michael reynolds is right, the Republican Party has Alzheimer’s,..

  5. stonetools says:

    Liberals; Throw us into that brier patch, Republicans!

    I do hope the Republicans run on enacting a total abortion ban, even for rape or incest, as well.

    Lord, Republicans have trouble with the whole idea of women controlling their own bodies.

  6. JohnMcC says:

    In the world on the other side of the looking glass in which commenters and diarists at redstate or breitbart’s live and breath they paid no price in ’14 for that shutdown in ’13. So why not? After all, doesn’t it feel great to send federal workers home, close national parks, cause closure of such things as homeless shelters and battered women’s shelters, lead defense contractors to lay off non-essential personnel….I could go on…. Don’t we all think that’s great fun? And in a good cause — defunding Planned Parenthood!

  7. SKI says:

    Let’s see…

    First line says “As some Republicans plot to force a showdown over Federal funding to Planned Parenthood that could lead to another government shutdown.”

    Remind me again why anyone would blame anyone but the Republicans?

  8. gVOR08 says:

    How many repetitions will it take for them to figure out they’re pointing the gun at their own heads?

  9. David in KC says:

    @gVOR08: the problem is that the rest of us are in the splatter zone.

  10. Michael S says:

    The GOP is not taking a political risk at all. As always happens. the electorate will blame a shutdown primarily if not entirely on the GOP. However, within a month of the shutdown being resolved, the electorate will forget the showdown ever happened. Why? Because if the electorate actually remembered that a shutdown occurred, they would punish the GOP at the ballot box as a result. Because the electorate has never done so despite frequent shutdowns in the past, the GOP knows it can complete another shutdown with impunity.

  11. Pete S says:

    @Michael S: you’re completely right. The voters might blame Republicans, but kind of like you would blame a slow puppy for peeing on the carpet. You may scold the puppy, but you don’t get rid of it. And the voters didn’t punish Republicans at the ballot box for the last shutdown…..

  12. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    It’s also possible that the portion of the cohort busting for a shutdown is willing to throw the GOP Congressional Caucus under the bus for the principle–and the purpose of getting rid of the portion of that Caucus that they consider RINOs.

  13. Lenoxus says:

    @Michael S: Does anyone have a good theory on why this is the case? I guess personal scandals are one thing, but political parties almost never pay a price on anything unless it’s a bad economy?

  14. Lenoxus says:

    Addendum: I’ve also heard that despite initial blame of Republicans, the “gridlock model” wins out in voters’ minds. Sure, maybe the GOP “started it”, but you don’t care which schoolchild started the fight, and you’re just sick of Both Sides and the Washington Machine, etc.

    Ugh, theoretically it could work every time.

    Hey, compromise is great, but that’s because it moves us forward and gets things done. If your position always concludes “compromise!” without being so low and unsophisticated as to judge any particular person or group, then you actually deliver everything to whoever is the least willing to compromise.

  15. Grumpy Realist says:

    @Lenoxus: well, I imagine it’s a case of “they’re bastards, but the other side is worse””. How many times have we muttered about politics being simply voting for the lesser of two evils?

    Until we get a third party, no matter how much they bitch, republicans are going to vote for their party, because the other side is obviously a Godless heathen Nazi pinko commie antichrist party.

  16. Sherparick says:

    As a liberal and Democrat I would love it to disaster for the GOP,” but sadly no.” A whole year will pass before the 2016 election and 95% of the Republicans in the House will be reelected, shutdown or no shutdown. Because 54% of their voters think Obama is a secret Muslim terrorist in league with ISIS to impose Sharia on them (he is Black after all and has that name). So from an incentive stand point, most House Republicans who fear getting “Eric Cantored” in a primary or are going to do their best to please the yahoos in their home districts. Further, the MSM media will be full of “both sides” and why “can’t Obama lead” and “compromise” with Republicans when by definition for most Republicans, (outside the Trans Pacific Partnership where Fox and Rush want the deal for their business buddies), agreeing with Obama on Motherhood and Apple pie would be a political death sentence, a descent into RHINOism. Now turn out could be sufficiently different in a Presidential year to cause a few marginal house seats and some Senate races to change hands, but the Republicans have done just fine this decade going the full Wingnut route with a Black President. They have got themselves 60% of the white vote, and from the memes going out from both Trump campaign and Faux news, they seem to believe if they polarize electorate on racial lines they will get 65 to 70% of the white vote (after all they do better than that now through out the South – now the trick is getting northern, secular, working class whites to identify with Neo-confederate thinking)..

  17. al-Ameda says:

    Forty-one percent said they would blame the GOP, and a third of people said that Democrats and President Obama would be responsible for a shutdown.

    Seventeen percent said both parties would be equally responsible, and 9 percent said they don’t know which party would take the blame.

    Broken down by political party, only 9 percent of Republicans polled said the GOP would be blamed, while nearly two-thirds of them said Democrats and Obama would be blamed.

    This is one of the LOL-i-est polls of the year.

    So, Republicans have engineered 2 government shutdowns in 5 years, countenanced a possible federal default that could have resulted from their petulant actions, and only 41% think that another shutdown would be on the Republicans?

    I suppose that those 41% represent Democrats, the inference being that Republicans and Independents think otherwise.