Hats off to National Journal’s Ron Fournier, who on Thursday pointed out a staggering statistic that explains Washington’s partisan gridlock and the GOP’s rising unpopularity.
Only 36% of Republicans say they like elected officials who make compromises, reveals a Pew Research Center poll released last month. Another 55% say they like elected officials who stick to their positions.
These figures are largely unchanged from two years ago, before congressional gridlock brought the U.S. economy to the brink with protracted fights over the debt-ceiling, the fiscal cliff, and now, over looming sequestration cuts. So it seems that those Republicans polled were either unaware of the last two years’ events in Washington, or were just unfazed by them.
But scarier still is that among conservative Republicans, about twice as many prefer politicians who stick to their positions as opposed to those who are willing to compromise (60% vs. 31%.)
“What these findings suggest,” writes Fournier, “is that the Republican Party is hostage to a hard-headed electorate that won’t let its leaders practice the basic art of politics.”
Public opinion of congressional Republicans has steadily soured since the GOP took the House in 2010, and launched into a seemingly never-ending fiscal war. Last month’s NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found that 49% hold a negative view of the GOP–its highest negative rating in the survey since 2008. But given the party’s strong “no-compromise” coalition, maybe the Republican leadership isn’t entirely to blame.
“The sturdy no-compromise wing of the GOP has put its leadership in a destructive Catch-22,” writes Fournier. “Republican leaders fear that if they work with Democrats to fix the nation’s problems, GOP voters will punish them. But if they don’t compromise, President Obama and other Democratic leaders justifiably cast the GOP as obstructionist, and independent voters flee.”
If the Pew poll is any indication, the fleeing may have already begun. Of Independents, 53% expressed a preference for politicians who are willing to compromise, up 12 points from 2011. And 59% of Democrats said they elected officials who make compromises, up from 46% in 2011.
So if Republicans are willing to drop the “never compromise” motto and come to the table, Democrats and Independents will be there waiting. And let’s hope they do, for as Fournier puts it, “Without compromise in a democracy, nothing gets done.”