Pew poll: Public would blame GOP, White House nearly equally for government shutdown

For once, I get to break the good-ish news while Ed plays eeyore. A month before the 1995 shutdown, Pew notes, 46 percent of the public said they’d blame the GOP if it happened versus 27 percent who said they’d blame Clinton. Fast-forward to this week and the public’s more ambivalent: 39 percent would blame the GOP and 36 percent would blame O’s administration, with 17 percent saying both would deserve blame. If you’re in the Cruz/Lee defund camp, there’s some encouragement. There’s some statistical reason to believe that the Roveans who promise electoral doom if the government shuts down are overstating things.

Why “good-ish” news instead of good news, though? Because the rest of the numbers look similar to the data from the CNBC poll that Ed posted earlier:


CNBC found that a plurality opposes defunding ObamaCare generally, 38/44, and really opposes it when a shutdown is required to do so, 19/59. Pew never asked explicitly about using a shutdown to force O-Care defunding, just about defunding as part of a budget deal per the last question in the table above. The numbers they got are actually slightly worse than CNBC’s general defunding question; presumably a follow-up specifying shutting the government down to defund O-Care would be even more dismal. (Here, as in the other poll, tea partiers make up the core of support.) How to square that with the fact that respondents blame the GOP and the White House nearly equally when asked about the prospects of a shutdown? Well, here’s how Pew framed the question about blame on its questionnaire:


They never mentioned ObamaCare as the potential cause of the shutdown. In fact, not until the last of the nine questions that they asked for this poll was O-Care referenced. What I think you’re seeing here in the “blame” data is simply how partisans respond in an information vacuum: Without any particular issue being identified, Democratic voters would reflexively blame the GOP in a shutdown and Republicans would reflexively blame O. Indies and centrists blame both. Would those numbers hold, though, for a shutdown over ObamaCare specifically, given that the public opposes defunding and that Obama, obviously, isn’t the party that’s trying to defund his namesake legislation? Note too that, so far, fewer people are paying attention to this week’s shutdown saga than in past shutdown situations. Per Pew, with a week to go, just 25 percent are following the news “very closely”; two weeks before last year’s “fiscal cliff,” 37 percent were following it very closely and one week before the 2011 debt-ceiling deadline, the number was 38 percent. I’m not sure if that means people will remain tuned out, which will limit the political damage from this game of chicken, or if people will simply be tuning in this week, with decisive public opinion more likely to be molded in the next few days than in the past. Either way, it’s a factor here.

Still, for vulnerable Republican incumbents, this is an easy call. Via the Corner, here’s Lindsey Graham doing his hamfisted best to signal to tea partiers how much he hates ObamaCare.

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