Yes, The Shutdown Is Hurting The Republican Party More Than Obama And The Democrats

There's no denying it now. The GOP is being harmed by the events in Washington far more than the President and Democrats in general.

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Before the government shutdown, there were several polls that seemed to suggest that Republicans would get most of the blame if the government actually did shutdown at the end of September. Since that shutdown occurred, the polls have seemed to confirm that prediction, although there has also been some indication that voters are nearly equally frustrated with all the players involved and that what they’d really like to see is for everyone involved to sit down and negotiate an end to the twin fiscal crises facing the nation. A new Gallup poll, however suggests that the GOP is taking a far bigger hit than Democrats are, at least for the moment:

WASHINGTON, D.C. — With the Republican-controlled House of Representatives engaged in a tense, government-shuttering budgetary standoff against a Democratic president and Senate, the Republican Party is now viewed favorably by 28% of Americans, down from 38% in September. This is the lowest favorable rating measured for either party since Gallup began asking this question in 1992.

The Democratic Party also has a public image problem — although not on the same elephantine scale as that of the Republican Party — with 43% viewing the Democratic Party favorably, down four percentage points from last month.

These findings come from a Gallup poll conducted Oct. 3-6 that followed the Oct. 1 partial government shutdown after lawmakers in Washington were unable to pass a spending plan for the federal government.

More than six in 10 Americans (62%) now view the GOP unfavorably, a record high. By comparison, nearly half of Americans (49%) view the Democratic Party unfavorably. Roughly one in four Americans see both parties unfavorably.

As always, it’s helpful to see this in a visual form, so here’s a chart showing party favorability going back to 1992:

Gallup Party Poll

 

And here’s the unfavorability chart, also going back to 1992:

Gallup Party Poll 2

 

There are several things worth noting here. First of all, the GOP’s favorability number is now at the lowest point its ever been in the past twenty-one years. The one time the number came close to where it’s at now looks to be in the 1998-1999 when the party got caught up in the Clinton Impeachment fiasco as well as the internal battles in the House of Representatives that led to the ouster of Newt Gingrich as Speaker of the House.  The unfavorable number is now roughly at the same place it was in the wake of the Bush 43 Administration and the 2008 financial crisis. Interestingly, the party doesn’t seem to have suffered significantly in the wake of the shutdowns in late 1995 and early in 1996. During that time period, the party’s numbers remained relatively stable and didn’t differ significantly from those for Democrats, which may be one reason why the GOP didn’t suffer significantly at the ballot box in 1996 elections, at least not on the Congressional side.

To be fair, it’s worth noting that Democrats have also suffered a drop in favorability, and they are nowhere near being in as good a position as they were in the late 90s. However, they’ve experienced far less erosion in support than the GOP has and are actually near the lowest level on unfavorability that they’ve seen since the 2010 elections. President Obama, meanwhile, is indeed experiencing something of a dip in job approval — a new Associated Press poll has his job approval at only 37%, for example, but based on the RealClearPolitics average, his numbers have actually improved over the past several weeks. So, while everyone in Washington seems to be suffering to some extent in the polls, the GOP seems to be suffering the most.

John Podhoretz addresses this fact in his column today at The New York Post:

Yes, Democrats look bad. Yes, Obama is probably doing himself no favors by saying he won’t negotiate when the public wants politicians in Washington to work together.

But Republicans look considerably worse. And for the Right, the Republican Party is the only game in town.

This is what my fellow conservatives who are acting as the enablers for irresponsible GOP politicians seem not to understand. They like this fight, because they think they’re helping to hold the line on ObamaCare and government spending. They think that they’re supported by a vast silent majority of Americans who dislike what they dislike and want what they want.

I dislike what they dislike. I want what they want. But I fear they are very, very wrong about the existence of this silent majority, and that their misperception is leading them to do significant damage to the already damaged Republican “brand.” (Forgive me for making use of that horribly overused term, but it’s the only one that fits.)

(…)

When I interact with these conservatives, they say they don’t care about the GOP; what they care about are conservative ideas.

They’re right not to assign special glory or power to a political organization and to hold ideas above party. But here’s the condundrum: There is only one electoral vehicle for conservative ideas in the United States — the Republican Party.

It’s one thing to refuse to waste your time buffing and polishing the vehicle so that it looks nice and pretty; that’s what political hacks do, and ideologues have every right to disdain such frippery.

But if, in the guise of making the vehicle function better, you muck up the engine, smash the windshield, put the wrong tires on it and pour antifreeze in the gas tank, you are impeding its forward movement. You’re ruining it, not repairing it.

Podhoretz is largely correct here. By signing on to a strategy that was clearly destined to fail, not having an obvious backup plan, and then forcing the government into shutdown mode while insisting that the original strategy was still the basis for further negotiations, the GOP has largely lost the political battle so far. Yes, as Podhoretz notes, Democrats and the President are likely going to take a hit over the refusal to negotiate as we get closer to the debt ceiling deadline, however it’s beginning to look like they’re going to take much less of a hit than the GOP will. More importantly, they have far more “slack” to give up in the polls than the GOP does. Democratic favorability remains relatively good and, while President Obama’s job approval remains negative, that number is far less important to his political future now that he doesn’t have to worry about running for reelection. This puts him in the position of having far different incentives than President Clinton did during the 95/96 shutdowns when he was still recovering from the bruising his party took in 1994 while having to look ahead to a reelection bid in 1996. President Obama can’t afford to let his job approval reach Bush 43 levels, obviously, because he’d be an immediate lame duck. However, he can afford to let the numbers slip a little bit, especially if his political opposition is doing far worse than he is.

As I’ve noted before, it’s always possible that the political winds may shift as these twin crises go on and that the GOP won’t be as damaged as current numbers seem to suggest. However, the current trends seem exceedingly clear and those kinds of trends in public opinion are difficult to reverse. Moreover, in order for it to reverse at all, the GOP is going to have to get much, much better at its messaging and its strategy. So far, there’s no sign of that happening.

FILED UNDER: Public Opinion Polls, 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. john personna says:

    Ted Cruz, super genius.

    Who was we hear, preaching to GOP lawmakers behind closed doors today that his plan should be pressed forward, and that elimination of Obamacare, and not Ryan’s shifted demand, be the object of extortion.

  2. john personna says:

    Yes, as Podhoretz notes, Democrats and the President are likely going to take a hit over the refusal to negotiate as we get closer to the debt ceiling deadline, however it’s beginning to look like they’re going to take much less of a hit than the GOP will.

    Of course they’ll take less of a hit, because they are sitting with a very fair and reasonable offer.

    That offer, the clean CR, is the one thing driving asymmetric results.

    They audience KNOWS that Republicans have DEMANDS to prevent default, and the Democrats do not.

  3. PJ says:

    …the Republican Party is now viewed favorably by 28% of Americans

    Wow, that’s awfully close to 27%. Can it actually go lower?

  4. David M says:

    And this is in a favorable media environment for the GOP, as their tactics are taking advantage of the “both sides do it” balance the press is addicted to.

  5. gVOR08 says:

    I am unconvinced Obama and the Dems will be hurt by taking a no negotiation stance. It makes them look strong and decisive in comparison to the offer of the day Rs. Long term, it supports a campaign narrative that the Rs have gone of the rails and can’t be compromised with.

  6. michael reynolds says:

    We don’t negotiate because as John Personna points out: we have no demands. We’re not asking for anything. The GOP wants to kick that neeegro out of the White House, er, cancel Obamcare. We’re not asking for anything.

  7. Woody says:

    A good post. I do have one caveat:

    I’m afraid I don’t agree with the ‘messaging’ line in that even with a large media empire endlessly praising the GOP and savaging the Democrats, along with the “Chuck” Todd/POLITICO construct of never endangering their access through accurate reporting; the American public understands that this is a radical attack on the American system of governance, pure and simple. A snazzy new slogan won’t change anything.

  8. Ron Beasley says:

    @PJ: I was thinking the same thing. It appears the only support the Republican Party now has is from the wacho bird bigots.

  9. Ron Beasley says:

    @Woody: I think the American people are coming to realize that you can’t negotiate with hostage takers who refuse to negotiate. Even the Koch Brothers are trying to distance themselves from the crazies. Of course in large part they are responsible for the crazies – the Doctor Frankenstein who created a monster they can no longer control.

  10. anjin-san says:

    We’re not asking for anything.

    Well, we do want our government to be able to serve the citizens of our country. Pretty unreasonable stuff.

  11. @john personna:

    Ted Cruz has basically become Enroljas, trying to convince everyone at the barricade that the people of Paris are going to come swarming to their side any momment now.

  12. mantis says:

    Yes, The Shutdown Is Hurting The Republican Party More Than Obama And The Democrats

    It’s hurting the American people far more than any of them. That’s the important metric you should worry about.

  13. Nick says:

    Moreover, in order for it to reverse at all, the GOP is going to have to get much, much better at its messaging and its strategy. So far, there’s no sign of that happening.

    Messaging and strategy are the GOP’s primary strengths. They need to fix their policies not the messaging. We’ve had 25 years of primarily conservative-inspired trickle down economics and rich Americans are doing better than ever, but the prosperity has not trickled down. The GOP has an amazingly efficient messaging apparatus to sell their message to the Joe the Plumbers — talk radio, Fox News, Drudge, etc. Ted Cruz/Sarah Palin/Rand Paul accurately represent the Republican message and reach a wide (35-40%) audience. To reach a larger percentage, someone is going to have to come up with new GOP policies.

  14. mantis says:

    Moreover, in order for it to reverse at all, the GOP is going to have to get much, much better at its messaging and its strategy.

    Yeah, make that suicide vest look fashionable!

  15. gVOR08 says:

    @Ron Beasley:

    Even the Koch Brothers are trying to distance themselves from the crazies.

    I think not really. The Koch Industries letter said Koch Industries has no position on Obamacare. The letter didn’t actually say anything about what Charles and David might be doing.

  16. C. Clavin says:

    Fascinating that with a Fourth Estate made up of stenographers and Both Sides Do it Apologists…that Republicans are still doing so bad.
    Imagine if the Fourth Estate were doing their job…

  17. Phillip says:

    @PJ:

    Can it actually go lower?

    If the social security checks don’t go out, I’m sure it can. Right-wing media doesn’t pay the bills for their listeners, just their sock-puppets.

    On another note, I fear I owe superdestroyer a sincere apology- the Republican party is driving itself into the void. I chuckle at the thought of how irrelevant they will be ten, twenty years from now as the center shifts ever left-ward, leaving behind the failed polices of these transparent sociopaths. I hope I am around to see it come to pass.

  18. C. Clavin says:

    Of course if the Fourth Estate did its job we never would have had the Bush Tax Cuts, Medicare Part D, or Iraq.

  19. C. Clavin says:

    Or f’ing austerity during the worst recession in 70 something years.

    Damn…I just realized Journalists are in cahoots with the Republican Party…trying to sabotage this Republic.

    Great topic for a journalistic piece.
    The Damage Weak-Ass Journalism Can Do

  20. mantis says:

    @Phillip:

    On another note, I fear I owe superdestroyer a sincere apology- the Republican party is driving itself into the void. I chuckle at the thought of how irrelevant they will be ten, twenty years from now as the center shifts ever left-ward, leaving behind the failed polices of these transparent sociopaths. I hope I am around to see it come to pass

    To be fair though, SD thinks it’s because of an invasion of brown people, not Republican sociopathy.

  21. dennis says:

    @ Doug:

    Moreover, in order for it to reverse at all, the GOP is going to have to get much, much better at its messaging and its strategy. So far, there’s no sign of that happening.

    Doug, seriously? At this stage in the crisis, you believe that messaging and strategy are the GOP’s problem? I’d like you to explain that, please, because I think their messaging and strategy are quite clearly only symptoms of the GOP’s problem.

  22. mattbernius says:

    @mantis:

    To be fair though, SD thinks it’s because of an invasion of brown people, not Republican sociopathy.

    Actually, I’m pretty sure he (?) thinks its both, with a fair bit of Republicans are too afraid to be realz conservatiz sprinkled on top.

  23. Tony W says:

    @michael reynolds:

    We don’t negotiate because as John Personna points out: we have no demands

    At this point, I am beginning to feel this is a tactical mistake by the Democrats. It’s time to negotiate – come up with demands that must be met before D’s agree to re-open government. Here’s a list of starting positions for the discussion:

    – Gerrymandering goes the way of the buffalo. Congressional districts may have no more than 8 corners, or something.
    – No more debt ceiling – we’ll leave Denmark with that unique differentiation.
    – Basic Health Care is deemed a basic human right
    – Top marginal tax rates go back to those of 1958
    – Scope and object of all amendments must relate to the underlying bill in a meaningful way
    – No more being a jerk about minorities.

    These demands may seem onerous, but remember we are completely willing to negotiate! Hope your Wall Street investments can hold out that long….

  24. Rafer Janders says:

    @Tony W:

    A good point by The Economist relating to that:

    When Mr Obama stops speaking as a partisan advocate of ambitious liberal goals, adopts his mature school-principal voice, and demands simply that political players adhere to reasonable norms of democratic governance, Republicans are left with nothing to oppose except the reasonable norms of democratic governance. At the moment, Republicans need to be reminded that Democrats do not want the government to reopen and the interest on our debt to be paid. They want the government to reopen, double its infrastructure spending and guarantee pre-school from age three to poor Americans; they want to pay the interest on our debt, then borrow more to run larger deficits right now and for the next couple of years, and lock in higher taxes five to ten years down the road to handle the long-term deficit problem. A fight between Democrats and Republicans over whether or not those are good ideas is a fight America can survive and even thrive with. A fight over whether or not to default on our debt isn’t.

  25. rachel says:

    @Tony W:

    @michael reynolds:
    We don’t negotiate because as John Personna points out: we have no demands

    At this point, I am beginning to feel this is a tactical mistake by the Democrats.

    It may be a tactical mistake, but allowing themselves to be dragged down to the opposition’s level would be a strategic one, IMO. For one thing, it would give cover for the “Both sides do it!” BS the MSM likes to put out.

  26. al-Ameda says:

    WASHINGTON, D.C. — With the Republican-controlled House of Representatives engaged in a tense, government-shuttering budgetary standoff against a Democratic president and Senate, the Republican Party is now viewed favorably by 28% of Americans, down from 38% in September. This is the lowest favorable rating measured for either party since Gallup began asking this question in 1992.

    Both sides do it, but one side now has an approval rating (28%) that is 1% above the Crazification level.

  27. Barry says:

    @mantis: “It’s hurting the American people far more than any of them. That’s the important metric you should worry about. ”

    The trick is that the GOP has a gerrymandered base, and one which doesn’t seem to connect pain with the causes.

  28. john personna says:

    @Barry:

    The trick is that the GOP has a gerrymandered base, and one which doesn’t seem to connect pain with the causes.

    From a good piece at TAC:

    On my Facebook feed last night, a conservative posted this chart and said something to the effect of, “What are we doing to ourselves here?” One of his commenters said, “Most of the people in this country are sheeple who believe whatever the media tells them. Who cares what they think?” That’s how thick the bubble is for some of these folks.

    What can a good conservative do? IMO, call BS on the whole thing, as TAC does.

  29. john personna says:

    @rachel:

    Yeah, I think that the clean CR was as neutral as it was specifically to break through the “both sides do it” story-line.

    And broadly it did … though the BSDI is strong in some.

  30. Rob in CT says:

    As I posted in the Paul Ryan thread, If this is over discretionary spending, there is no cause for the GOP position. The Dems started at $1.058T (Obama budget), the the GOP (Ryan) at $966B. Harry Reid brought in a Senate bill at $988, under the impression that Boehner could make that work in the House (allegedly b/c Boehner told him so). Shutting down the government over that (let alone defaulting over it!) is obviously insane. They’re $20B apart, after the Dems made a $70B move.

    But as this whole thing developed, we found out that it’s not just about that. The list of GOP demands has shifted over time, but at the outset is was a total wishlist. It amounted to agreeing to the Romney/Ryan policy blueprint, as if they’d won the election. That has been put down the memory hole now, I guess, but it’s absurdity is instructive. They want SOMETHING. Many are unsure exactly what would satisfy them. I think it’s a lot less about policy than it is about feeling they’ve won (even though, most recently, they actually lost. Or perhaps because of that?).

    If you look at Ryan’s latest oh I’m so reasonable op-ed, he’s trying to use the shutdown/default threat as leverage to negotiate better deals (from the GOP’s perspective) on taxes, energy policy, entitlement cuts, and much, much more (but not the PPACA). He offers up a vague offer of a short-term spending increase in return. Remember that Ryan has wanted to use the debt ceiling as leverage all along – this is him trying to get things back on track after Cruz threw a curveball in there.

    Obama’s position is, I think, clear and reasonable: we can negotiate on stuff like that, but not with the government shut down and most especially not under the threat of default.

    The question for Ryan, et al. is why they didn’t go into conference with the Dems for months leading up to this (I know the answer, but it would be nice to see them try and answer it for others).

  31. Tony W says:

    @rachel:

    For one thing, it would give cover for the “Both sides do it!” BS the MSM likes to put out.

    If the media are going to put that tripe out anyway, then the D’s might as well actually try to get something out of it.

  32. Rob in CT says:

    A followup to the bit about Ryan:

    Not long after, Ryan was on the radio saying that he didn’t mean to suggest he’d given up on the Obamacare fight. When he referred to entitlements in his Journal op-ed, of course he meant Obamacare, too.

    Oh, wonderful. Wonderfully vague, of course. “Entitlement reform” that equals “repeal your big health insurance reform law” is a non-starter. So what, exactly, does he mean? Something that sounded ok if you didn’t think about it too hard and just wanted to hear Republicans making reasonable noises.

  33. george says:

    @rachel:

    For one thing, it would give cover for the “Both sides do it!” BS the MSM likes to put out.

    To be fair, the MSM hasn’t been a uniform entity in decades, though for some reason everyone seems to like to pretend it is. If you have an opinion, you can find it reflected some where in the maze of information that is the MSM.

    I thought it was mainly the Conservatives that liked to blame the MSM for their losses – mainly because blaming the media is predicated on believing voters are stupid, and its mainly the conservatives who’ve taken that stance.

    I think the relationship between the media and the population today is the reverse of what’s usually stated – voters find a media source which echoes their opinion. This effect become stronger the younger the voter. Blaming the press is like a coach blaming the referee … typically an excuse for doing badly.

  34. Davebo says:

    @Ron Beasley:

    Well remember that in the presidential election that garnered the libertarian party the most votes in history the VP nominee was named Koch.

    But no, Libertarians aren’t Republicans who are ashamed to admit it………

  35. Davebo says:

    @Ron Beasley:

    Well remember that in the presidential election that garnered the libertarian party the most votes in history the VP nominee was named Koch.

    But no, Libertarians aren’t Republicans who are ashamed to admit it………

    Libertarians are for lower taxes and less government but don’t really care who you sleep with or what you smoke. And oddly enough could care less about their government torturing people.

    It’s an odd group to say the least.

  36. Tony W says:

    @george:

    I thought it was mainly the Conservatives that liked to blame the MSM for their losses – mainly because blaming the media is predicated on believing voters are stupid, and its mainly the conservatives who’ve taken that stance.

    That shows surprisingly clear self-awareness on their part.

  37. superdestroyer says:

    @mantis:

    Actually part of the failure of the Republican Party is that their inability to think about and deal with the long term is the changing demographics. The Republicans know that as people receive subsidies to purchase healthcare (I refuse to call it insurance since there is no actuarial science involved), that more people will become automatic Democratic Party voters.