The freshly installed Republican majority in the House of Representatives is getting a rude wakeup call as they transition from campaigning to governing.
Amid enormous voter discontent with the Democratic status quo and with concern running high over the economy last November, voters handed the keys over to Republicans, giving them a crack at dealing with government spending and the national deficit. Yet just two months into the new Congress, self-identified Republicans and Independents — and particularly Tea Party sympathizers — have already lost a great deal of faith in the GOP’s ability to come up with a better approach to solving those problems, according to a newly released Pew poll of adults nationwide.
In the poll, 21% of Americans said they believed Congressional Republicans had a better approach to the deficit than did President Obama, while 20% felt the reverse. In addition, 52% said there wasn’t much difference between Obama and the GOP House.
That’s a sharp reversal from last November, when 35% said the GOP had better plan, compared to 24% who said Obama knew best how to deal with the deficit. And while Democrats haven’t soured much more on the GOP’s capability — not very many were so hot on Republicans to begin with — the poll shows Republicans and independents turning away from the GOP in huge numbers.
In November, almost seven in ten Republicans believed the GOP had a strong plan for dealing with the deficit. That number has fallen to 52% now, a 17-point drop. Among Independents, that swing was 20 points, form 37% down to a measly 17%.
And Tea Party sympathizers, whose engagement played an important factor in the GOP’s electoral success last year, have turned on Republicans in even greater numbers. Three-fourths of tea partiers thought Republicans had a god plan for the deficit last November — just over half feel the same way now, a 24-point turnaround.
While Americans are losing confidence in Republicans, they are not flocking to Obama and the Dems. Rather, they’re now more likely to say there is not much difference between the two; one-third said there wasn’t much difference between Obama and Republicans on the deficit last year, a number that has ballooned to one-half now.
It’s not clear what that means for both parties heading into the 2012 elections, since Americans aren’t, as they did in the last election, turning from one party toward the other. But it at least shows that the wave of support Republicans rode into office has ebbed on at least on one very important front.
The Pew poll was conducted March 10-13 among 1,001 adults nationwide. It has a margin of error of 4.0%.