Does the Public Even Care About the Government Shutdown?

Who's winning, who's losing, and why.
Oct. 11 2013 4:08 PM

The Shutdown Survey

The Slate/SurveyMonkey snap poll plumbs the depths of the public’s anger at the GOP.

While House Speaker John Boehner and his fellow Republicans are working with the White House to hash out a short-term debt limit increase, the federal government remains largely shuttered. In such political standoffs, the central question always becomes, “Who do voters blame?” Like many other polls, the Slate/SurveyMonkey snap poll found that most respondents place the blame for the government shutdown squarely on the Republican Party. (Information on respondents is available here. More information about SurveyMonkey Audience is here.)

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Of those surveyed, 50 percent blamed Republicans, 37 percent hold both parties responsible, and 11 percent point solely at Democrats. But just because people think Republicans are doing a bad job doesn’t mean they want to give a Democratic president authority to raise the debt ceiling. Even though we’ve been told that breaching the debt limit could lead to a global financial meltdown, most people think Congress should still be responsible for authorizing the country’s debt ceiling. While many people argue that the president already has the ability to authorize the debt under the 14th Amendment (as discussed on Slate’s Political Gabfest), the White House isn’t likely to test out that theory.

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Apart from the politicking, the government shutdown has had tangible effects on those who depend on federal services ranging from HeadStart and housing vouchers, to national parks and museums. Sixty percent of respondents said they had been affected at least somewhat by the government shutdown, and a majority of respondents said they care “a lot” about it. Only 4 percent said they didn’t care about the shutdown at all.

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Boehner has the less than enviable job of taming his more recalcitrant members into passing a “clean” continuing resolution—a bill that would reopen the government with no strings attached. As David Weigel reported Wednesday, not doing so could backfire on Republicans who are running in next year’s elections. Democrats need to flip 17 seats to retake control of the House, and so far, the National Republican Congressional Committee is having a hard time making charges of hypocrisy stick to Democrats running for re-election in 2014. So far, no matter how the GOP tries to spin the issue—it’s about Obamacare! It’s about the debt! It’s about entitlements!—they still come up looking like the bad guys.

Emma Roller is a Slate editorial assistant. Follow her on Twitter.

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