Poll: Don’t Tie Shutdown to Obamacare Funding

In a new United Technologies/National Journal Congressional Connection Poll, two-thirds of Americans say Congress should keep the government open and deal with health care separately.

Federal workers demonstrate against the government shutdown in front of the US Capitol in Washington on October 4, 2013. The US government shut down for the first time in 17 years on October 1 after lawmakers failed to reach a budget deal by the end of the fiscal year. 
National Journal
Steven Shepard
Oct. 7, 2013, 5 p.m.

Amer­ic­ans are di­vided on who de­serves blame for the gov­ern­ment shut­down, but one thing’s cer­tain: A sol­id ma­jor­ity thinks it’s wrong to de­mand changes to Obama­care as a price for re­open­ing the gov­ern­ment.

The latest United Tech­no­lo­gies/Na­tion­al Journ­al Con­gres­sion­al Con­nec­tion Poll finds little con­sensus on whom to blame for shut­ting down the gov­ern­ment — 38 per­cent say it’s the Re­pub­lic­ans, 30 per­cent say it’s Pres­id­ent Obama, and 19 per­cent say it’s both.

But pub­lic opin­ion is clear­er on the House GOP’s ap­proach: Over­whelm­ingly, Amer­ic­ans think Con­gress should fund the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment and deal with health care sep­ar­ately; and just as strongly, Amer­ic­ans op­pose in­clud­ing GOP pri­or­it­ies — even those with which they oth­er­wise agree — in a bar­gain to raise the debt ceil­ing.

The res­ults por­tend polit­ic­al risk for Re­pub­lic­ans should they con­tin­ue to em­ploy their cur­rent ap­proach. Amer­ic­ans op­pose those tac­tics, the data show, and if the gov­ern­ment breaches its debt lim­it, trig­ger­ing broad-based eco­nom­ic tur­moil, Amer­ic­ans could hold Re­pub­lic­ans re­spons­ible.

The cur­rent in­stall­ment of the United Tech­no­lo­gies/Na­tion­al Journ­al Con­gres­sion­al Con­nec­tion Poll was con­duc­ted Oct. 3-6 by Prin­ceton Sur­vey Re­search As­so­ci­ates In­ter­na­tion­al. The poll sur­veyed 1,000 adults, half via cell phone, and car­ries a mar­gin of er­ror of plus or minus 3.7 per­cent­age points.

Half of the poll’s re­spond­ents dis­ap­prove of Obama’s hand­ling of ne­go­ti­ations over the shut­down, ac­cord­ing to res­ults from the same sur­vey com­mis­sioned by the Pew Re­search Cen­ter. But con­gres­sion­al GOP lead­ers still score worse on this meas­ure: 69 per­cent dis­ap­prove of the way they are hand­ling the budget ne­go­ti­ations, while only 19 per­cent ap­prove. Con­gres­sion­al Demo­crats fall in between: 29 per­cent ap­prove and 58 per­cent dis­ap­prove.

Even though roughly half those sur­veyed in the cur­rent poll think the ad­min­is­tra­tion is mainly or equally to blame for the shut­down, and Obama and Demo­crats are un­der­wa­ter on the is­sue, Amer­ic­ans — by a vast ra­tio of more than 2-to-1 — dis­ap­prove of the House GOP ty­ing the fu­ture of the Af­ford­able Care Act to fund­ing the gov­ern­ment or rais­ing the debt ceil­ing.

The poll shows that 65 per­cent think “Con­gress should provide the fund­ing to keep the gov­ern­ment op­er­at­ing and deal with the health care is­sue sep­ar­ately.” Just 24 per­cent think the House “is right to fund the con­tinu­ing op­er­a­tions of the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment only if Obama agrees to delay or with­draw his health care plan.”

Demo­crats are nearly un­an­im­ous on fund­ing the gov­ern­ment, while Re­pub­lic­ans fa­vor the House GOP po­s­i­tion, though by a nar­row­er mar­gin (50 per­cent to 38 per­cent). Among in­de­pend­ents, 66 per­cent think Con­gress should fund the gov­ern­ment, and 23 per­cent think House Re­pub­lic­ans are right.

The over­all res­ults are sim­il­ar to a pre-shut­down United Tech­no­lo­gies/Na­tion­al Journ­al Con­gres­sion­al Con­nec­tion Poll, which found 27 per­cent of re­spond­ents thought the gov­ern­ment should only be fun­ded if the health care law was delayed or stricken, and 63 per­cent thought Con­gress should ap­prove the fund­ing and deal with health care sep­ar­ately.

The num­bers are sim­il­ar when it comes to the fight over ex­tend­ing the na­tion’s bor­row­ing lim­it. Fol­low­ing oth­er ques­tions about ways to re­duce the coun­try’s de­fi­cit and the per­ceived rami­fic­a­tions of fail­ing to raise the debt lim­it, poll re­spond­ents were told that con­gres­sion­al Re­pub­lic­ans “say they will only agree to in­crease the fed­er­al debt ceil­ing if Pres­id­ent Obama ac­cepts their pro­pos­al on oth­er is­sues.” In­ter­view­ers then asked about four GOP policy pro­pos­als — some of which have been found to be pop­u­lar in pre­vi­ous sur­veys — but re­spond­ents said they op­posed in­clud­ing every one of them in a debt-lim­it agree­ment by at least a 2-to-1 ra­tio.

Asked wheth­er a “one-year delay for the im­ple­ment­a­tion of Pres­id­ent Obama’s health care law” should be in­cluded, 31 per­cent said it should, while 65 per­cent said it should be dealt with sep­ar­ately. Op­pos­i­tion ran just as strongly for ty­ing “cuts in spend­ing for do­mest­ic dis­cre­tion­ary pro­grams” and “cuts in Medi­care, Medi­caid, and oth­er fed­er­al en­ti­tle­ment pro­grams” to the debt-ceil­ing bill, with the poll find­ing res­ults vir­tu­ally equi­val­ent to delay­ing the health care law.

The add-on gen­er­at­ing the strongest op­pos­i­tion is also likely the most pop­u­lar: Only 24 per­cent think that “a re­quire­ment that Pres­id­ent Obama au­thor­ize the con­struc­tion of the Key­stone pipeline to trans­port oil from Canada to the U.S.” should be part of a debt-lim­it agree­ment, while 70 per­cent think it should be sep­ar­ate. A United Tech­no­lo­gies/Na­tion­al Journ­al Con­gres­sion­al Con­nec­tion Poll in Ju­ly found more than two-thirds of Amer­ic­ans sup­por­ted build­ing the Key­stone XL pipeline, though that ques­tion in­cluded ar­gu­ments on both sides of the is­sue and didn’t at­tach the pro­ject to rais­ing the debt ceil­ing.

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