Conservative Pollsters See Scant Danger in Government Shutdown

By Charles S. Clark

August 14, 2013

A conservative group’s poll of likely voters in key congressional districts released Wednesday is giving heart to the bloc of Republicans threatening an autumn government shutdown unless Congress defunds the Affordable Care Act.

The poll of 10 diverse districts sampled Aug. 7-8 by pollsters commissioned by Heritage Action for America, the political arm of the Heritage Foundation, showed that only 28 percent of voters would blame Republicans if the government shuts down over the budget fight surrounding Obamacare. That compares with 22 percent who would blame President Obama and 19 percent who would blame Democrats.

The poll taken Aug. 7-8 by Basswood Research found that 57 percent of independent voters favor defunding Obamacare. Some 60 percent of voters said they would back a “time out,” or a “temporary slowdown in non-essential federal government operations, which still left all essential government services running" if President Obama could agree to at least slow the implementation of the law.

“This poll demonstrates that the left cannot win the argument on either the policy front or the political front,” Heritage Action CEO Michael Needham said. “House Republicans should be much more concerned with the fallout of failing to defund Obamacare than with the imaginary fallout of doing so.”

Added Heritage Action pollster Jon Lerner, “There is no present evidence that a move to de-fund Obamacare, and the potential of a partial government shutdown, would harm Republican prospects of holding the House majority.”

The congressional districts sampled included six currently held by Republicans, in Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, Ohio and Oregon. The four others are held by Democrats, in Georgia, North Carolina, Utah and West Virginia.

The Republican Party is currently divided over tactics for getting the government funded by the Sept. 30 end of the fiscal year, with establishment leaders such as Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn and 2012 presidential nominee Mitt Romney warning that the goal of defunding the health care law is political suicide.

National polls taken in late July suggest that slightly more of the public would blame Republicans should the government shut down. According to the Quinnipiac University survey, 35 percent would blame Republicans “a lot” while 39 percent would blame them “some” for a shutdown. Only 27 percent would blame Democrats “a lot” and 36 percent would blame them “some.” Strong majorities said each party should compromise their positions in order to get a deal; 83 percent said Democrats and Obama should compromise to get things done, while 80 percent said Republicans should compromise.

An earlier Quinnipiac poll in late June and early July asked, “Who do you blame for gridlock in Washington: Democrats, Republicans or both equally?” About 10 percent blamed Democrats, while 23 percent blamed Republicans. Those blaming “both equally” totaled 64 percent.

A Gallup Poll released on Tuesday showed that 81 percent of Americans disapprove of Congress, while 14 percent approve.

By Charles S. Clark

August 14, 2013