The U.S. government's fan base is shrinking—and fast. Just 18 percent of Americans say they are satisfied with the way the country is being governed, down from last month's 32 percent, recorded before the government shutdown, according to a new Gallup Poll.
The number is the lowest the polling agency has seen since it first started asking citizens whether they were satisfied with government in 1971. It edges out the previous low of 19 percent, recorded in September 2011, following a last-minute deal by lawmakers to raise the debt ceiling and save the nation from default. Before that, the lowest level of satisfaction with how the nation was governed clocked in at 26 percent, during the Watergate scandal in September 1973.
The new record reflects Americans' thinning patience for the ongoing fiscal fights in Washington. This week, dysfunction on Capitol Hill surpassed the economy as what Americans viewed to be the country's biggest problem. Public opinion of President Obama, as well as of Republican and Democratic congressional leaders, is worse this month than before the shutdown.
With one week left before the Treasury's debt-ceiling deadline, these lawmakers have started to hustle. House Republicans are preparing a short-term plan to lift the debt ceiling for six weeks to protect the nation from default. Senate Democrats are voting this weekend on a bill to extend the limit until the end of the year. Both sides, however, will not meaningfully negotiate on a long-term deal until they open the government. There's no light at the end of the tunnel: Even if the House's six-week plan makes it through the Senate and to Obama's desk, Washington will likely be embroiled in budget talks for weeks to come, testing its constituents' patience even more.
The poll was conducted through telephone interviews between Oct. 3 and Oct. 6, with a random sample of 1,028, aged 18 and older, in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The margin of error is plus or minus 4 percentage points.