Americans Think GOP’s Top Priority Is Troublemaking

The United Technologies/National Journal Congressional Connection Poll finds few people see job creation as either party’s priority.

WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 20: U.S. Speaker of the House Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) celebrates as he speaks during a rally as other House Republicans look on after a vote September 20, 2013 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. The House has passed a spending bill 230-189 that defunds the Obamacare and keeps the government running until December 15, 2013. 
National Journal
Ronald Brownstein
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Ronald Brownstein
Oct. 1, 2013, 6:01 p.m.

The two parties are por­tray­ing the stale­mate over the fed­er­al budget and health re­form as a ti­tan­ic clash of prin­ciple, but a plur­al­ity of Amer­ic­ans be­lieves that caus­ing polit­ic­al prob­lems for Pres­id­ent Obama is now the GOP’s top pri­or­ity in Wash­ing­ton, the latest United Tech­no­lo­gies/Na­tion­al Journ­al Con­gres­sion­al Con­nec­tion Poll has found.

Re­spond­ents didn’t view Wash­ing­ton Demo­crats’ mo­tiv­a­tions quite so cyn­ic­ally, but even so, when the poll asked the pub­lic to rank that party’s pri­or­it­ies, caus­ing prob­lems for con­gres­sion­al Re­pub­lic­ans fin­ished second, only be­hind re­du­cing health care costs.

Mean­while, as polls still con­sist­ently show that cre­at­ing jobs re­mains task one for most Amer­ic­ans, only about one in sev­en adults in the United Tech­no­lo­gies/Con­gres­sion­al Con­nec­tion sur­vey iden­ti­fied it as the highest pri­or­ity for either party in Wash­ing­ton.

The poll iden­ti­fied six policy and polit­ic­al goals and asked re­spond­ents which they con­sidered the highest, and second-highest, pri­or­ity for each party in Wash­ing­ton. The res­ults showed that in­de­pend­ents, in par­tic­u­lar, see the parties di­ver­ging on most of their goals—but shar­ing a lack of at­ten­tion to the slow pace of job cre­ation.

In an­oth­er sign that this year’s re­lent­less cas­cade of con­front­a­tions was dent­ing the Re­pub­lic­an Party im­age, 32 per­cent said the GOP’s highest pri­or­ity was “caus­ing polit­ic­al prob­lems for Pres­id­ent Obama.” By con­trast, 19 per­cent said Demo­crats’ highest pri­or­ity was “caus­ing polit­ic­al prob­lems for Re­pub­lic­ans in Con­gress.”

The dif­fer­ence was ex­plained partly be­cause Demo­crats were more likely to see polit­ic­al gain as the GOP’s top goal than vice versa. (Ex­actly half of Demo­crats said the GOP was fo­cused primar­ily on caus­ing prob­lems for their party, while only 34 per­cent of Re­pub­lic­ans tagged that as the highest pri­or­ity for Wash­ing­ton Demo­crats.) But more in­de­pend­ents saw Re­pub­lic­ans (31 per­cent) than Demo­crats (22 per­cent) mo­tiv­ated primar­ily by caus­ing polit­ic­al dif­fi­culties for the oth­er side.

The United Tech­no­lo­gies/Na­tion­al Journ­al Con­gres­sion­al Con­nec­tion Poll, con­duc­ted by Prin­ceton Sur­vey Re­search As­so­ci­ates In­ter­na­tion­al, sur­veyed 1,005 adults by land­line and cell phone from Sept. 25-29. It has a mar­gin of er­ror of plus or minus 3.7 per­cent­age points. The sur­vey was com­pleted just be­fore the stale­mate between the parties tipped the gov­ern­ment in­to shut­down Monday night.

After caus­ing prob­lems for Obama, re­spond­ents ranked the GOP’s pri­or­it­ies as re­du­cing gov­ern­ment debt (20 per­cent); cre­at­ing more jobs (14 per­cent); re­du­cing health care costs (13 per­cent); fix­ing the im­mig­ra­tion sys­tem (6 per­cent); and re­du­cing gun vi­ol­ence (4 per­cent).

Among par­tis­an Re­pub­lic­ans, one-third iden­ti­fied debt re­duc­tion as the party’s top pri­or­ity, fol­lowed by re­du­cing health care costs and cre­at­ing more jobs (both around one-sixth) and caus­ing prob­lems for Obama (at about one-sev­enth.) The largest group of in­de­pend­ents iden­ti­fied wound­ing Obama as the GOP’s top pri­or­ity, fol­lowed by re­du­cing the debt, fix­ing im­mig­ra­tion, and cre­at­ing more jobs, each clustered at around one in six. Demo­crats over­whelm­ingly iden­ti­fied caus­ing prob­lems for Obama as the GOP’s pri­or­ity; one in sev­en saw Re­pub­lic­ans as be­ing most fo­cused on re­du­cing the debt, while one in 10 picked cre­at­ing jobs.

As for the Demo­crats’ pri­or­it­ies, 24 per­cent put re­du­cing health care costs at the top of the list, fol­lowed by caus­ing prob­lems for the GOP (19 per­cent); cre­at­ing more jobs (14 per­cent); re­du­cing gun vi­ol­ence (12 per­cent); re­du­cing gov­ern­ment debt (10 per­cent); and fix­ing the im­mig­ra­tion sys­tem (6 per­cent).

Most Demo­crats iden­ti­fied their party’s top pri­or­ity as re­du­cing health care costs (35 per­cent), fol­lowed by cre­at­ing jobs (22 per­cent). In­de­pend­ents split about evenly between those who thought the Demo­crats top pri­or­ity was re­du­cing health care costs (23 per­cent) and cre­at­ing dif­fi­culty for Re­pub­lic­ans (22 per­cent). And while about one-third of Re­pub­lic­ans thought Demo­crats were most fo­cused on un­der­min­ing the oth­er party, even one-sixth of them named con­trolling health care costs as their rival’s top pri­or­ity.

On each side, the pic­ture al­ters only slightly when adding the is­sues re­spond­ents saw as the second-highest pri­or­ity for the party as well. In that meas­ure, 41 per­cent saw caus­ing prob­lems for Obama as either the top or second-highest pri­or­ity for the GOP, fol­lowed by re­du­cing debt (40 per­cent) and cre­at­ing more jobs (31 per­cent). With Demo­crats, re­du­cing health care costs re­tained the top spot (at 39 per­cent) as the first or second pri­or­ity, fol­lowed by cre­at­ing more jobs (32 per­cent). On this meas­ure, re­du­cing gun vi­ol­ence jumped in­to third place, fol­lowed closely by caus­ing prob­lems for Re­pub­lic­ans.

One find­ing that might cause prob­lems for both parties was how few re­spond­ents, of any par­tis­an or demo­graph­ic slice, saw either’s prin­cip­al fo­cus as cre­at­ing jobs—even with un­em­ploy­ment stub­bornly hov­er­ing over 7 per­cent. Not many Demo­crats (roughly one-fifth) or Re­pub­lic­ans (about one-sixth) viewed that as their own party’s top pri­or­ity.

Even core con­stitu­en­cies on each side didn’t see much em­phas­is placed on that en­dur­ing prob­lem. Only about one in nine young adults young­er than 30, and just un­der one in five minor­it­ies, saw job cre­ation as the Demo­crats’ top pri­or­ity. Sim­il­arly, job cre­ation was named as the GOP’s top pri­or­ity by only about one in sev­en whites without a col­lege edu­ca­tion, and one in nine white seni­ors. The con­front­a­tions loom­ing this month over fund­ing the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment and rais­ing the pub­lic debt is only likely to deep­en the sense that Wash­ing­ton’s pri­or­it­ies lie else­where.

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