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
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.

What We're Following See More »
PHOTO OP
Clinton Shows Up on Stage to Close Obama’s Speech
4 hours ago
THE LATEST

Just after President Obama finished his address to the DNC, Hillary Clinton walked out on stage to join him, so the better could share a few embraces, wave to the crowd—and let the cameras capture all the unity for posterity.

‘DON’T BOO. VOTE.’
Obama: Country Is Stronger Than Eight Years Ago
5 hours ago
THE LATEST

In a speech that began a bit like a State of the Union address, President Obama said the "country is stronger and more prosperous than it was" when he took office eight years ago. He then talked of battling Hillary Clinton for the nomination in 2008, and discovering her "unbelievable work ethic," before saying that no one—"not me, not Bill"—has ever been more qualified to be president. When his first mention of Donald Trump drew boos, he quickly admonished the crowd: "Don't boo. Vote." He then added that Trump is "not really a plans guy. Not really a facts guy, either."

‘HILLARY CLINTON HAS A PASSION’
Kaine Sticks Mostly to the Autobiography
6 hours ago
THE LATEST

Tim Kaine introduced himself to the nation tonight, devoting roughly the first half of his speech to his own story (peppered with a little of his fluent Spanish) before pivoting to Hillary Clinton—and her opponent. "Hillary Clinton has a passion for children and families," he said. "Donald Trump has a passion, too: himself." His most personal line came after noting that his son Nat just deployed with his Marine battalion. "I trust Hillary Clinton with our son's life," he said.

TRUMP IS A ‘CON’
Bloomberg: Neither Party Has a Monopoly on Good Ideas
6 hours ago
THE LATEST

Michael Bloomberg said he wasn't appearing to endorse any party or agenda. He was merely there to support Hillary Clinton. "I don't believe that either party has a monopoly on good ideas or strong leadership," he said, before enumerating how he disagreed with both the GOP and his audience in Philadelphia. "Too many Republicans wrongly blame immigrants for our problems, and they stand in the way of action on climate change and gun violence," he said. "Meanwhile, many Democrats wrongly blame the private sector for our problems, and they stand in the way of action on education reform and deficit reduction." Calling Donald Trump a "dangerous demagogue," he said, "I'm a New Yorker, and a know a con when I see one."

TRUMP’S ‘CYNICISM IS UNBOUNDED’
Biden: Obama ‘One of the Finest Presidents’
7 hours ago
THE LATEST

Vice President Biden tonight called President Obama "one of the finest presidents we have ever had" before launching into a passionate defense of Hillary Clinton. "Everybody knows she's smart. Everybody knows she's tough. But I know what she's passionate about," he said. "There's only one person in this race who will help you. ... It's not just who she is; it's her life story." But he paused to train some fire on her opponent "That's not Donald Trump's story," he said. "His cynicism is unbounded. ... No major party nominee in the history of this country has ever known less."

×