Polls Suggest That "Defund Obamacare or Shut Down the Government" Is a Solid Idea

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Sept. 23 2013 2:14 PM

Polls Suggest That "Defund Obamacare or Shut Down the Government" Is a Solid Idea

The conventional wisdom, according to Republicans both named and anonymous, is that the party's dinged-up "brand" will take yet more dents if the government shuts down. This is largely true: Voters assume Republicans are to blame if the government shuts down.

But if I'm a Republican who's straddling the fence right now, unsure of how much to anger the constituents of my gerrymandered district, I don't think the polls look all that bad. 

- CNBC's Hart-McInturff poll* finds that "in general, Americans oppose defunding Obamacare by a plurality of 44 percent to 38 percent." Funding Obamacare remains, for some reason, more popular than the very existence of Obamacare. But if you're starting with 38 percent of the country on your side, and if the number is likely higher in your district, you can see a path to victory.

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- The Pew Research poll finds the public largely split on whom to blame for a shutdown if it happens—by a 3-point margin, it's ready to blame Republicans. When asked specifically if they back the House GOP plan to cut off Obamacare funding in order to fund the rest of government, 38 percent of all voters (again!) are on board. That's higher among independents—41 percent. And again, imagine what those numbers look like in Republican seats that are largely whiter and more rural than the rest of the country.

The killer number in this data, I guess, is the majority that opposes defunding "when the issue of shutting down the government and defaulting is included." But Republicans are only talking about fully defunding the law in the context of a shutdown. They're already trying to "compromise" with a one-year delay of the law in a debt limit deal.

*The pollster that often produces the very accurate WSJ polls.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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