Government shutdown: GOP losing ground with public, polls indicate

WASHINGTON – The standoff over the government shutdown continues to damage the public’s opinion of congressional Republicans, two new surveys indicate, a finding likely to deepen concern among GOP leaders about the impact the stalemate is having on their party.

A third newly released survey shows that overall approval of Congress has fallen to nearly a record low.

Disapproval of the way congressional Republicans are “handling negotiations over the federal budget” has jumped to 70%, a Washington Post-ABC News poll shows. The poll, taken Wednesday through Sunday, found 24% approving of the congressional GOP.

The ratings have worsened significantly over the last week. A Post-ABC poll taken just before the shutdown began showed 63% of Americans disapproving of the GOP position.

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The reverse is true for President Obama. While approval of his handling of the budget negotiations remains tepid, it has improved since last week, the poll showed. In the most recent survey, Americans narrowly disapproved of Obama’s performance on the budget negotiations, 51% to 45%. That marked a small improvement from the previous week’s 50% to 41%.

Many senior Republican leaders warned before the standoff began that it would probably hurt the party with voters, and those concerns have only deepened since government agencies began to close last week. The latest polls are likely to reinforce those worries.

But while the public as a whole may not like the stalemate in Washington, representatives on both sides are largely following the desires of their constituents, a Pew Research Center survey indicates. About three-quarters of self-identified Democrats say that Republicans should yield on their demands, while a similar percentage of self-identified Republicans say that President Obama should be the one to give in.

The improvement in Obama’s standing comes largely because he has consolidated support among his fellow Democrats. Among those who identified themselves as Democrats in the Post-ABC poll, approval of Obama’s handling of the budget rose to 77%, up from 71% a week earlier. In both cases, 21% disapproved. Obama’s approval rating went up 8 points among self-described liberals and 7 points among moderates.

By contrast, congressional Republicans get divided support from those who identify themselves as Republicans. The 52% of self-identified Republicans who said they approved of the way Republicans in Congress were handling the budget was down from 56% a week earlier.

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The relatively poor ratings that Republicans get from within their own party reflect the deep divisions among Republican voters about which way the party should turn – whether it should seek a compromise with Obama and congressional Democrats or hold firm on insisting that Obama agree to major concessions in return for a budget agreement.

The Pew poll underscored those divisions. Among Republicans who view themselves as tea party supporters, 72% said it would be “unacceptable” if the “only way to end the shutdown” would be for Republicans to drop their demands for major changes in Obama’s healthcare law. By contrast, 39% of Republicans who do not see themselves as tea party supporters took that view.

The Pew survey also showed that Republicans receive more blame from the public than the Obama administration for the continued stalemate.

The difference is relatively small, with 38% saying Republicans are more to blame and 30% putting the onus on the administration. But the gap has widened since the shutdown began. Two weeks ago, before the shutdown started, Americans were almost evenly divided, with 39% saying in a Pew survey that they would mostly blame the GOP and 36% saying they would mostly blame Obama.

Meantime, the latest Gallup poll finds that approval of Congress has dropped to 11% -- just one percentage point above the worst level recorded, which occurred last year.

Gallup’s economic confidence index has dropped 14 points since late September, erasing all the gains made since the end of 2011.

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Twitter: @DavidLauter