Poll: 71 Percent of Americans Disapprove of GOP's Handling of Debt Ceiling Crisis
It sure looks as if President Obama and (to a lesser extent) congressional Democrats are winning the public-opinion war in the debt-ceiling fight, according to a new CBS poll, but I think that conclusion should come with an asterisk.
... President Obama earned the most generous approval ratings for his handling of the weeks-old negotiations, but still more people said they disapproved (48 percent) than approved (43 percent) of what he has done and said....
Approval drops to 31 percent for the Democrats in Congress, and only 21 percent of the people surveyed said they approved of Republicans' handling of the negotiations, while 71 percent disapprove.
Even half of the Republican respondents (51 percent) voiced disapproval of how members of their own party in Congress are handling the talks....
That last statistic is the key point. See, you and I disapprove of congressional Republicans because they've been extreme and intransigent. By contrast, I'm assuming that a healthy percentage -- probably a majority -- of Republican poll respondents who disapprove of how congressional Republicans are handling this situation disapprove because they think congressional Republicans aren't being extreme or intransigent enough. (I hope the full poll data, which we don't have yet, will answer that question, but it may not.) I'll spare you the back-of-the-envelope math, but I suspect that if you added GOP respondents' approval of congressional Republicans' current stance to approval of amore extreme stance, you'd get awfully close to the 31% approval Democrats in Congress have. (I don't think disapproval from Dems and independents would change much -- non-wingnut Americans already think congressional Republicans are being extreme and intransigent, and probably can't think much worse of them.)
So I suspect that's how GOP back-benchers are going to read this. I think they're also going to assume that Obama and congressional Democrats will win with Democratic and independent voters only if they get a deal -- whereas they, the Republican back-benchers, are only going to win with their base if they block a deal.
In other words: cornered rats, likely to survive only if they lash out.
So don't assume this is going to motivate them to back down.