House Speaker John Boehner said that he got 98 percent of what he wanted in the final debt ceiling deal this summer. But the percentage of Americans that trust the GOP to do what’s right on the deficit is significantly lower than that — nearly three times lower.
As Americans’ stomachs turn at the possibility of a government shutdown over yet another spending battle, everyone seems to be at fault. On Monday morning Gallup released the news that more people are dissatisfied with the way government is being run than they were after Watergate, a very high (or low) bar that Washington has hit a few times during the last decade or so. Later on Monday the Pew Research Center released some delineations about that sentiment.
Pew conducted a survey on how Americans feel about political leaders’ ability to handle the deficit, an issue that has been eclipsed as the highest priority by jobs, but is still a major concern. The data showed that only 35 percent of Americans have confidence that GOP congressional leaders will do the right thing on the deficit, 43 percent thought the same about congressional Democrats, but a majority of 52 percent felt that President Obama will do the right thing on the issue.
This is not to say President Obama enjoys wide support on his ability to handle economic issues. Voters are equally frustrated with Obama because of the stagnant economy, as the TPM Poll Average shows only 33.5 percent approval on his handling of it. But the fractious squabbling in Congress has made that institution plummet further, as even after a miserable summer the House and Senate only resumed their infighting when they returned to Washington and began new work on a bill to keep the government funded, disagreeing on (of all things) disaster aid for those affected by Hurricane Irene.
Meanwhile, President Obama left Washington to go sell his new jobs bill and talk up proposals that Pew shows to be quite popular: 66 percent in the poll said raising taxes on those $250,000 a year is a good idea, against only 31 percent. Reducing military commitments overseas and limiting corporate tax deductions saw near equal levels of support. Obama may not enjoy high approval on how the economy is doing, but it seems like he’s at least getting some of the politics right at the moment.
Pew pointed to the fact that the lack of faith in the GOP on the debt is wide ranging. “The drop in confidence in GOP congressional leaders is broad based, even occurring among Republicans themselves,” reads Pew’s report. “The share of Republicans confident in their party’s leaders on this issue has fallen from 76% four months ago to 62% today, with comparable declines among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents who agree with the Tea Party and those who do not.”
Unaffiliated Americans, who have almost completely soured on both parties in Congress, are a little more supportive of the President when it comes to handling the debt, something that should be welcome news: the latest CNN survey shows Obama’s approval among independents down to 42 percent, against 54 percent disapproval. “Independents are equally skeptical of both parties in Congress (35% have at least a fair amount of confidence in Republican leaders, 34% express confidence in Democratic leaders),” says the Pew report. “Nearly half of independents (47%) say they have a great deal or fair amount of confidence in Obama to do the right thing when it comes to dealing with the federal budget deficit.”
Americans aren’t happy with anyone in Washington, but Republicans are running out of room for error: 35 percent of country having confidence they can do the right thing on the debt looks suspiciously like their base. President Obama isn’t exactly operating from a position of strength on the economy, but in a choice between him and Congressional dysfunction, Americans are moving his way.
Kyle is the Editor of TPM Media’s PollTracker. He graduated from Beloit College (WI) and began working in politics before getting an M.A. in magazine journalism from New York University, where he interned at TPM and the website of The New Yorker.