A Budget Shutdown?

April 07, 2011, 12:00 AM GMT+0

Nearly one in four Americans claim not to have heard anything about the Congressional budget debate that threatens to shut down the government on Friday. But most of those who have in the latest Economist/YouGov Poll think it’s likely to happen. However, most don’t think a government shutdown would affect them personally.

53% of those aware of the debate call the possibility of a shutdown likely, though only 12% say it is very likely. Four in ten think that they would be personally affected, with Democrats, those 65 and older, and the less well-off more likely to say that.

All the parties in the budget debate score poorly with the public. More than half have little or no confidence in the leaders of both parties in Congress. When asked whether in their dealings with each other, the Congressional parties are mostly providing constructive political alternatives or mostly just opposing the other party, Americans see more opposition than constructive alternatives coming from both the Republicans and the Democrats, though Democrats fare marginally better than Republicans.

That is true as well in the assessment of how the Republicans in Congress relate to President Obama. By more than two to one (54% to 25%), Americans say Republicans are mostly setting themselves in opposition. The public would rather see compromise. 58% favor their elected leaders compromising in order to get things done, while 42% say their representative should stick to his or her principles, even at the risk of accomplishing less.

The desire for compromise comes only from majorities of Democrats and independents. 62% of Republicans reject it.

Although Congress comes in for criticism (just 12% of Americans approve of the way it is handling its job in this poll), there is also little support for the way President Obama is handing the budget deficit. Just 30% approve of his performance on this issue; 59% disapprove.

The President’s overall approval rating in this poll is just 43%; 50% disapprove. What is striking in these numbers is the polarization between the parties when it comes to assessments of the President. 77% of Democrats approve of the way Barack Obama is handling his job, while 88% of Republicans disapprove. Only 8% of Republicans approve of how the President is handling his job overall and even fewer Republicans approve on issues like health care (6%) and the budget deficit (3%). Even on issues like foreign policy, which has had a long history of bipartisanship, the parties differ: 66% of Democrats approve, while 76% of Republicans do not.

Photo source: flickr ( Serge Melki )

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