WaPo poll puts blame for debt crisis on ... everyone

The latest Washington Post/ABC poll doesn’t deliver good news to either side of the debt-ceiling standoff.  Voters appear to be putting more blame on Republicans than on Barack Obama for the lack of a deal, but both get solid majorities disapproving of their actions thus far:

Majorities of Americans see both President Obama and congressional Republicans as not willing enough to compromise in their budget negotiations, but the public views the GOP leaders as particularly intransigent, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

There is also growing dissatisfaction among Republicans with the hard-line stance of their congressional representatives: Fifty-eight percent say their leaders are not doing enough to strike a deal, up from 42 percent in March. …

There is also broad dissatisfaction with Obama’s unwillingness to reach across the aisle: Nearly six in 10 of those polled say the president has not been open enough to compromise. Among independents, 79 percent say Republicans aren’t willing enough to make a deal, while 62 percent say the same of Obama.

Republicans may also be losing the war of perception about who stands with whom in the debates over the deficit and the economy. A majority view the president as more committed to protecting the interests of the middle class and small businesses, while large majorities see Republicans as defending the economic interests of big corporations and Wall Street financial institutions.

For sample watchers, this isn’t one of the WaPo/ABC series’ worst sampling performances.  At 32/26/34 it undersamples Republicans (and Democrats slightly, as well), but it’s still an improvement over their 10-point gap in April.  The June sample had the same six-point gap and undersampled both parties more than this one does.  Gallup showed a six-point gap in May, but that was also taken at the same time that Obama got his Osama bin Laden mission bump, too.

The sample won’t make too much difference in this poll, except perhaps in Obama’s approval numbers, which I’ll get to in a moment.  The big takeaway from this survey is that a failure to reach a deal will damage both sides, which isn’t exactly a surprise in politics; no one gets a clean victory or defeat in these battles.  Within Republican ranks, pressure has begun to make a deal, which may be why some GOP leaders have begun looking for Plans B, C, and D.  Republican respondents that paint the GOP as too resistant to a bargain has climbed 16 points since March to 58%. On the other hand, Republicans have gained traction with their argument that tax cuts create jobs, flipping that from 41/45 in March to 47/44 now.

At the same time, that 62% of respondents that claim that Obama is too resistant to a deal can’t possibly comprise just Republicans and independents.  However, half of all Democrats worry that Obama will give away too much in a deal.  The WaPo’s analysis of the data doesn’t discuss much more than that about Democrats; they spend most of their time focusing on Republicans.  That’s both a measure of the leadership Republicans have taken on providing actual plans to deal with the crisis, and the media’s attempt to hang the whole issue on them rather than on the administration that blew up the budget over the last two years.

The public hasn’t forgotten that, though.  Obama’s overall approval rating stayed underwater, virtually unchanged from June at 47/48.  On the issues, he fares much worse:

  • Economy: 39/57, was 40/59 in June
  • Budget deficit: 38/60, was 33/61
  • Taxes: 45/47, was 50/44 in January, last time question asked

Obama’s insistence on getting tax hikes may be taking its toll.  On the economic questions, Obama has remained mired in overwhelming disapproval — and it’s interesting that the WaPo/ABC survey doesn’t ask for an approval rating on job creation.