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Posted at 9:37 AM ET, 03/ 1/2011

The politics of blame, shutdown edition

By Peyton M. Craighill

People say they would apportion blame about evenly between the Obama administration and the Republicans in the event of a government shutdown. Some 36 percent in a new Washington Post poll conducted with the Pew Research Center say they'd blame Republicans and 35 percent Obama, with 17 percent volunteering that they'd blame both.

These numbers differ from those in 1995 when then-president Bill Clinton and the Republican Congress squared off on the budget. Today, independents divide their blame between Obama and the GOP, by 37 to 32 percent. A little over 15 years ago, in Nov. 1995, independents were more clearly behind the president, blaming the GOP over Clinton by 46 to 24 percent.

In 1995, Republicans were less unified in blaming the opposition: 57 percent assigned fault to Clinton. In the new poll, 69 percent of Republicans say they'd blame Obama if the two sides can't come to terms. By contrast, Democrats are somewhat less apt to blame the GOP today than they did in the early stages of the 1995 fight (63 vs. 71 percent).

Half of all those polled say Obama is playing politics with the issue and 43 percent say he is trying to resolve the dispute. Slightly more - 59 percent - say Republicans in Congress are playing politics vs. 33 percent who say they are trying to resolve the issue. These are roughly the same reactions people had in 1995.

The partisan splits on these questions are very similar. Sixty-one percent of independents say Obama is playing politics, but 63 percent also say this about the GOP. Among Republicans 70 percent say Obama is playing politics. Among Democrats, slightly more - 81 percent - say Republicans are playing political games.

The political consequences of a shutdown are daunting for either side and the economic conditions are quite different now than they were 15 years ago. In November 1995 the unemployment rate was 5.6 percent. Today it is hovering at 9 percent. The prospect of shutting more people out of work could be a tough political pill to swallow.

               Blame more for a 
              government shutdown?
            Obama   GOP   Both (vol.)   
All           35    36       17
Democrats     11    63       17
Republicans   69     8       17
Independents  37    32       17
Liberal Dems   7    72       16
Mod-Cons Dems 13    60       17
Cons Reps     76     5       14

            Obama administration:
         Trying to resolve   Playing
         the budget issue    politics
All             43             50
Democrats       72             24
Republicans     24             70
Independents    33             61 
Liberal Dems    76             23
Mod-Cons Dems   71             23
Cons Reps       21             74

           Republicans in Congress:
         Trying to resolve   Playing
         the budget issue    politics
All             33             59
Democrats       15             81
Republicans     68             27
Independents    30             63 
Liberal Dems    13             86
Mod-Cons Dems   16             78
Cons Reps       74             23

By Peyton M. Craighill  | March 1, 2011; 9:37 AM ET
Categories:  Congress, Federal Budget Deficit  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Public opinion on the biggest economic worries
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Shut her down!! Who give a rip if that mess is closed down. Shut it down for a few months, look at all the money we will save. Soldiers aside, who cares. If it's shut down for 4 months I'll bet the USA is still here and none the worse for ware. We need a break from the BS anyway.

Posted by: TBOregon | March 1, 2011 11:12 AM | Report abuse

Obama came into office with 2 wars and a worse economy than now. Two years and now the idiots are blaming him for the mess that the Republicans did. Idiots actually voting in the same party that raped this country so bad to begin with?

instead of sticking it to the middle class, how about we charge the oil companies for the oil war we citizens paid for in Iraq? how about charging the republicans for crimes for the lies to start that war and the trillions wasted on it?? They where handed a SURPLUS and quickly turned that around to the hugest deficeits in history, but you blame Obama?

Republicans where handed a freaking Surplus from Democrats, (Clinton) and screwed this country to death and its appalling how the media and the super rich are putting their spin in this and worse how so many of Americans are buying into it.

Posted by: sttiger | March 1, 2011 11:25 AM | Report abuse

To TBOregon, Federal workers give a rip. How would you like to be in a situation of not knowing whether you are going to get paid for an extended amount of time? You obviously only know one side of the story of the good that the Feds do to this country.

Posted by: sam113 | March 1, 2011 12:00 PM | Report abuse


If they shut down the government that means shutting the IRS, right? No more money coming in? Save a little, but blow up the deficit.

Shutting down social security? Don't a few people rely on those checks to avoid, say, living on the streets and begging for food?

Shutting down criminal enforcement of federal laws?

Maybe you're kidding (adding to the BS). I hope so.

Posted by: BPupp | March 1, 2011 12:27 PM | Report abuse

They are all to blame. The people we put into office are having a p***ing contest like little children, when they should instead be finding a way to work together to work for all of the American people. Right now they are disregarding the people they represent so that they can move their personal and political agendas forward. It is total disregard for why they are there and who they serve.

Posted by: JorgeGortex | March 1, 2011 12:50 PM | Report abuse


I can only assume an idiot like yourself is not: a soldier, a veteran, a contractor, over 65, on welfare, a single parent, disabled, on social security, waiting for a refund, on medicare/medicaid, traveling abroad, a caregiver, seriously ill, in need of flood insurance etc., etc. I can only imagine YOU are one of THOSE people who complains about the government at all times, but most especially when you need the services and none are available due to lack of funding.

Posted by: devilsadvocate3 | March 1, 2011 12:51 PM | Report abuse

TBOregon, you don't remember the last shutdown very well, do you? Federal employees got back-pay. The only effect that cry-baby Newt's genius plan had on the government was that regular people were inconvenienced because they couldn't file paperwork for social security, medicaid, FHA loans, etc.

Shutdowns don't save anything. They're just PITAs.

Posted by: dkp01 | March 1, 2011 1:38 PM | Report abuse

Actually, this time around, it is unlikely that federal employees will receive retroactive pay. Keep in mind, however, that congress and congressional staff will still be paid. Non-essential civil servants will be the ones not working and not getting paid. The vision of a government shutdown for some is the cessation of activites by beurocrats in Washington. The actuality is something quite different. Who wins?

Posted by: biodork | March 1, 2011 2:06 PM | Report abuse

I wish the democrats had the cojones to say OK let the government shut down...And then actually let the government shut down. No wars, No ammunition, food, clothing etc...sent to overseas soldiers, congress would have to actually brown bag it because no money for food, no money to pay congress, the secret service, anyone in the white house. No billions for the pentagon to play with, no social security checks, no tax refunds, no collection of taxes, no interest on tax payments that the government doesn't collect while shut down. No medicare payments, no federal law enforcement, no prison guards in federal prisons, no OSHA inspections, no clean air/water testing, no federal court cases are heard.

Then maybe some of you yutzes pushing for a shutdown might just might realize just what it is you are proposing.

Posted by: hart2014 | March 1, 2011 2:15 PM | Report abuse

A gov shutdown is not a good idea at all. I understand cutting back and saving money, etc...But there are alot of federal workers, contractors, etc and their families who really depend on their paychecks. That would be a disaster if say it went on for a couple of weeks and people really fell behind in these already bad economic times. The folks at the top can afford to go a few days without pay but for the average person connected to the gov they need their money. I myself am a contractor who has nothing to do with all the "BS", I'm an ordinary guy with a job who does not need nor want the gov to shutdown

Posted by: mbroo1 | March 1, 2011 3:22 PM | Report abuse

Right on STTIGER who wrote: "it's appalling how the media and the super rich are putting their spin in this and worse how so many of Americans are buying into it."

It IS appalling how average Americans who keep getting screwed by the super rich just keep on voting for those who support the super rich.

Posted by: devilsadvocate2 | March 1, 2011 3:27 PM | Report abuse

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