Americans are holding Republicans primarily responsible for the partial government shutdown as public esteem sinks for all players in the impasse, US President Barack Obama among them, according to a new poll.
It is a struggle with no heroes.
The Associated Press-GfK survey, released yesterday, affirms expectations by many in Washington — Republicans among them — that the Republicans may end up taking the biggest hit in public opinion from the fiscal paralysis, just as that party did when much of the government closed 17 years ago.
However, the situation is fluid nine days into the shutdown and there is plenty of disdain to go around.
Overall, 62 percent mainly blamed Republicans for the shutdown. About half said Obama or the Democrats in US Congress bear much responsibility.
Asked if she blamed Obama, House of Representatives Republicans, Senate Democrats or the Tea Party for the shutdown, Martha Blair, 71, of Kerrville, Texas, said: “Yes, you bet. All of them.”
“Somebody needs to jerk those guys together to get a solution, instead of just saying ‘no,’” said Blair, an independent. “It’s just so frustrating.”
It is also costly: Blair has paid to fly with a group to four national parks in Arizona and California next month and says she cannot get her money back or reschedule if the parks remain closed.
The poll found that the hardcore conservative Tea Party movement is more than a rump of malcontents in the political landscape, as its supporters in Congress have been portrayed by Democrats, but rather a sizable — and divisive — force among Republicans.
More than 4 in 10 Republicans identified with the anti-tax, limited government Tea Party and were more apt than other Republicans to insist that their leaders hold firm in the standoff over reopening government and avoiding a default of the nation’s debt in coming weeks.
Most Americans disapprove of the way Obama is handling his job, the poll suggests, with 53 percent unhappy with his performance and 37 percent approving of it.
US Congress is scraping rock bottom, with a ghastly approval rating of 5 percent.
Indeed, anyone making headlines in the dispute has earned poor marks for his or her trouble, whether it is Democrat Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader; or Republican John Boehner, the US House of Reprsentatives speaker, both with a favorability rating of 18 percent.
And much of the country draws a blank on Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas despite his 21-hour Senate speech before the shutdown.
Only half in the poll were familiar enough with him to register an opinion.
Among those who did, 32 percent viewed him unfavorably; 16 percent favorably.
Comparisons could not be drawn conclusively with how people viewed leaders before the shutdown because the poll was conducted online, while previous AP-GfK surveys were done by telephone.
Some changes may be due to the new methodology, not shifts in opinion.
The poll comes with both sides dug in and trading blame incessantly.
On Tuesday, a proposal by House Republicans to create a working group of 20 lawmakers to tackle deficit issues prompted a White House veto threat, and a plan by US Senate Democrats to raise the debt limit by US$1 trillion to avoid a default drew a frosty reception from the Republicans.