Debt deal done, but public sours further on Congress

When Washington dithers -- and threatens federal default -- the public mood sours. That’s a key takeaway from a new poll that shows disapproval of Congress at an all-time high of 82%.

The New York Times/CBS News survey found that more than four out of five people believe that the recent debt-limit debacle was more about gaining political ground than advancing the nation’s interests. And as the nation watched the months-long standoff, disapproval of Congress soared past even the levels seen amid the 1995 shutdown of the federal government.

Few escaped the public’s growing wrath in the survey. House Speaker John A. Boehner, an Ohio Republican, saw his disapproval rating rise by 16 percentage points since April, to 57%. The “tea party” saw its disapproval rating grow to 40%, up from 18% when that question was first asked in April 2010.

More than seven out of 10 polled said that the United States’ standing in the world was worsened by the debt-ceiling episode.


The public appeared to hold Congress, and Republicans in particular, more accountable than President Obama. A total of 72% disapproved of how congressional Republicans handled the talks, while 66% opposed Democrats’ tactics.

The president drew a split decision: 46% approved and 47% disapproved.

And as the economy continues to stagnate -- the Dow Jones industrial average plummeted 500 points on Thursday -- one positive sign for Obama is that the public still isn’t blaming him for the nation’s outsized deficits. Forty-four percent still blamed the Bush administration, while Congress and Obama tied at 15% in taking the blame for the fiscal shortfalls.

The poll also showed why Obama made the term “compromise” central to his nationally televised address in late July. Of those polled, 85% said politicians should compromise and only 12% preferred they stick to their positions.


Still, the public was evenly divided over whether the president had evidenced strong leadership during the debt crisis: 49% yes, 48% no.

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