As Republicans and Democrats in the Senate worked toward a deal to loosen the debt ceiling and budget knot, a new poll showed where surgeons will have to operate once a deal is struck: Much — but not all — of their image-repair work will be have to be done on behalf of Republicans when it comes to the voter groups most sought after in 2014 and 2016.
Overall, the new ABC News/Washington Post poll found the same results that every other big-time poll has found in recent days: While the tide of voter resentment is submerging everyone involved to some extent, congressional Republicans have taken the biggest hit.
Over two weeks, the pollsters said, Republicans in Congress have become far less popular even among their fellow Republicans. Fewer than half — 49%, to be exact — of Republicans approved of how members of their party were behaving, down from 56% two weeks earlier. Disapproval? Up 9 points.
Democrats were not demonstrating the fratricide that has marked the party in the past. More than 6 in 10 approved of how their partisans were handling things in Congress, up 6 points from two weeks earlier. President Obama was staying steady among his party’s voters, at 71%.
The results are more troublesome for Republicans when it comes to women, Latinos and independent voters, precisely the sort of voters that the Republican National Committee said last spring that it needed to embrace if its national candidates were to succeed in 2016 and beyond. In almost all cases, the cascade of conversation since the government shutdown on Oct. 1 has been toxic for the GOP.
Among women: President Obama’s standing remained stable, if unimpressive, with 42% approving of the job he was doing. But the percentage of women who disapproved of Republicans in Congress was up 12 points, four times the hit Democrats in Congress took.
The story was the same when it came to independent and moderate voters, the centrists who rarely come into play in smaller races but who can be potent in presidential contests. Among independents, disapproval of Republicans in Congress rose 10 points over two weeks — to more than 3 in 4 of those polled — while views of Democrats soured by a smaller 6 points. Among moderates, views of the GOP grew 14 points more negative in two weeks — to 80% disapproval — while Democrats saw a lesser 3 point increase.
Among Latinos, another sought-after voter group, results were similar. Disapproval of congressional Republicans hit 75%, compared with 41% for Obama and 46% for congressional Democrats. Even among white voters, the backbone of the Republican Party nationally, Obama was more favorably viewed than Republicans in Congress.
Obama, of course, is not doing all that well himself, with job approval ratings that would be laughable were he running again. But he is not. And while national polls are meaningless when it comes to predicting the fate of individual members of Congress, who run in smaller, more homogeneous, more protected districts, they are valid ways to compare the parties heading into the next presidential campaign. At this point, their consistency is not a good sign for Republicans.