Ted Cruz's Unskewed Poll Says Republicans Are Only Barely Losing

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Oct. 10 2013 12:55 PM

Ted Cruz's Unskewed Poll Says Republicans Are Only Barely Losing

It's not a good sign when your own poll shows you losing.

Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images

I'm a bit late to it, but David Drucker scooped a poll conducted for Ted Cruz and shared with Senate Republicans, and it emphasizes just how much the conservative strategy of the moment depends on moving the battle to an alternate universe. According to the poll (I've asked for sample demographics and other details), the GOP is doing markedly better in the PR war than the GOP of 1995, when a fight between the Congress and President Clinton caused the last shutdown. Via Drucker:

– Obama’s job approval rating was 45 percent; his disapproval was 52 percent.
– 67 percent said Obamacare was the “major reason” for the government shutdown.
– By a margin of 46 percent to 39 percent, voters blamed Republicans for the shutdown over “Obama and Democrats.” Another 15 percent are undecided about who to blame.
– By a margin of 42 percent to 36 percent, independent voters blamed Republicans for the shutdown over Obama and the Democrats.
– In November 1995, 51 percent of voters blamed Republicans for the shutdown; only 28 percent blamed then-President Clinton.

Yes: In the poll Cruz gave Republicans to prove that the party was winning, more people blame Republicans for the shutdown. The evidence that the party has "gained" is not that it's improved its 2013 position, but that it's doing better than the party of 1995. This is an apples/oranges comparison in two ways.

- In 1995 the GOP controlled the entire Congress, and couldn't ask voters to blame both the Senate and the president.

- The 51-28 number cited by Cruz comes from a Nov. 19, 1995, CBS poll. That happened to be the day the House and Senate caved and passed a monthlong funding bill, which preceded the December/January shutdown. Cruz isn't even proposing any such short-term deal this time.

But I'm piling on; the consensus on this poll is that Cruz sounds like a crazy person. That's why it was leaked, after all. The absence of a trend-line reminds me of this month-old RedState post by Erick Erickson, in which the influential pundit argued that the "defund" campaign was boosting Republicans.

Congress’s job approval rating has gone up in the past month. It may only be at 20%, but that’s ten points higher than before Jim DeMint and Ted Cruz and Mike Lee started talking about defunding Obamacare.

That 20 percent number came from a CNN poll. A Gallup poll taken at the same time found Congress's approval rising to 19 percent. The numbers in those polls now? Ten and 11 percent. For some reason, Cruz didn't cite that to his colleagues.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 


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