Poll: Don't Shut Down the Government Over Obamacare

A new Quinnipiac University poll released on Tuesday shows voters overwhelmingly oppose Congress shutting down the federal government as a way to stop the 2010 health care law from being implemented, matching other public polling that shows that Democrats enter the shutdown with the upper hand.

The Quinnipiac poll also shows Democrats with a 9-point lead on the 2014 House generic ballot -- a historically wide edge, despite the structural advantages that make a Democratic takeover of the House unlikely.

Overall, the poll shows voters are split on the health care law: 45 percent support it, while 47 percent oppose it. Other polls have shown stronger opposition to the law, however.

But despite their overall ambivalence toward the law, voters oppose efforts to defund it. Just 34 percent think Congress should cut off funding, and support is even lower when those defunding efforts are tied to a government shutdown (22 percent) or raising the debt limit (27 percent). A wide majority, 72 percent, oppose shutting down the government to cut off funding the health care law.

That is consistent with other public surveys, including our United Technologies/National Journal Congressional Connection Poll, which have shown Americans opposed to the Republican strategy of allowing the government to shut down if the health care law was not defunded or rolled back, even if they oppose the law itself.

Looking ahead to the 2014 elections, Democrats lead Republicans on the generic ballot, the poll shows, 43 percent to 34 percent. Four percent of registered voters say they prefer someone else, 2 percent wouldn't vote, and 17 percent are undecided.

The 9-point advantage is the largest Quinnipiac has measured since the spring of 2009, in the first months of the Obama administration. The yawning lead isn't that inconsistent with other Quinnipiac surveys conducted this year: In two July surveys, for example, Democrats held 4- and 5-point leads.

Despite the Democratic advantage on this question, GOP retention of the House seems likely at this stage. The generic ballot has overstated Democratic support in the past, and the Quinnipiac poll is a survey of all registered voters, many of whom won't cast ballots in a midterm election.

The 2014 elections will also be contested on a different playing field. Republicans enjoy a structural advantage following the decade's redistricting processes, and, in the Senate, Democrats have more vulnerable members up this cycle. And though the 1995-96 shutdown is widely attributed to then-President Bill Clinton's reelection, Democrats only picked up two seats in the House -- and lost two Senate seats -- following the 1996 elections.

Other data show that Democrats' success on the generic ballot is more attributable to a collapsing GOP brand than improving images of Democrats and their standard-bearer, President Obama. Quinnipiac finds Obama's approval rating is net-negative: 45 percent approve, and 49 percent disapprove. And congressional Democrats earn a 32-percent approval rating, while three-in-five voters disapprove.

But Republicans in Congress have hit a record low, the poll shows. Only 17 percent of voters approve of the way GOP members of Congress are handling their jobs, while a whopping 74 percent disapprove. Among independents, only 13 percent approve, compared to 76 percent who disapprove.

The Quinnipiac University poll was conducted Sept. 23-29, surveying 1,497 registered voters. Other polls released this week back up the collapse of the GOP brand. The party's overall favorable rating in a new CNN/ORC International poll is 32 percent, a record low. Only 26 percent approve of the way Republicans in Congress are handling the budget talks in a new ABC News/Washington Post poll.

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