Nobody likes a troublemaker.
The Americans who feel more alienated by the Republican Party since last November overwhelming see the GOP's top priority as causing political headaches for President Obama – more than jobs, cutting the debt, reducing health care costs, or anything else.
That's the finding from combining two earlier poll results earlier this week in the latest United Technologies/National Journal Congressional Connection Poll.
The first of those surveys showed that a plurality of Americans, 32 percent, believe the GOP's highest priority is causing headaches for President Obama.
The second showed that twice as many American believed the Republican Party had drifted further from representing their views (32 percent) since last November than those who believe the party now more closely reflects them (16 percent).
But it is the overlap of those two poll results that could be particularly distressing for GOP leaders. By a large margin, those who believe that the Republican Party's chief priority is "causing political problems" for Obama believe the party is moving further away from "representing their views."
Almost half, 48 percent, of those surveyed who said that Republicans had moved further from them also said the GOP's top priority was antagonizing Obama. In other words, taking a hardline, anti-Obama posture – when the public identifies that as the Republican Party's chief motivation – appears to be turning off Americans.
It is a particularly acute problem as the government enters its fourth day of its first shutdown in 17 years. In the last 100 hours, Democrats have accused Republicans at every turn of shuttering the government as a way to antagonize Obama and undermine his signature health care law.
But if there are warning signs for Republicans in being seen as the antagonizers-in-chief, there is an opportunity to be had as the party of reducing the debt. Among those who said the party had moved closer to them, a plurality of 35 percent credited reducing the debt as the GOP's number one priority.
It boils down to this: A plurality of those who feel more alienated by the GOP see the party chiefly as antagonizing the president while a plurality of those who feel closer to the party see Republicans as the party of reducing the debt.
The United Technologies/National Journal Congressional Connection Poll, conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International, interviewed 1,005 adults between Sept. 25 and 29, via landline and cell phone. The overall margin of error is 3.7 percentage points, but subgroups have greater margins of error.
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