Professional pollsters for major news organizations are notoriously cautious people who avoid hyperbole. So when Democratic pollster Peter Hart and Republican Bill McInturff conducted the new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll and described the results as “jaw-dropping,” it’s worth appreciating why.
Let’s put it this way: if this poll were a campfire story, it’d leave Republicans shaking uncontrollably in their sleeping bags. The GOP wasn’t in especially good shape before, but the shutdown crisis and the threats to crash the economy on purpose have been an unmitigated disaster for the party, causing the sort of collapse in public support pollsters simply don’t see very often.
What’s the good news for Republicans in the poll? There is no good news.
* Approval ratings: While President Obama’s approval rating improved after GOP lawmakers shut down the government, Republican support has collapsed. In the new poll, 70% of Americans disapprove of the way in which GOP lawmakers are doing their jobs. Republicans have reached a level of unpopularity unseen in the history of the poll.
* Shutdown: Asked who bears responsibility for the shutdown, a 53% majority blame congressional Republicans. Less than a third (31%) blame the president.
* “Obamacare”: Despite the difficulties the Affordable Care Act has encountered since the open-enrollment period began, support for the law has increased.
* Generic ballot: Democrats enjoy an eight-point advantage in the congressional midterm elections (47% to 39%), as compared to a three-point advantage last month (46% to 43%).
* Government activism: By a 52% to 44% margin, Americans believe the government should do more, not less, to solve problems. In June, the results were evenly split.
* Patriotism: A 70% majority believe congressional Republicans are “putting their own political agenda ahead of what is good for the country.”
Republican pollster Bill McInturff added, “These numbers lead to one inescapable conclusion: The Republicans are not tone deaf; they are stone deaf.”
Reince Priebus’ “rebranding” campaign hit a few potholes in recent months, but it’s now fallen into a deep sinkhole.
Away from politics, let’s also note that the Republican-imposed crisis has taken a severe toll on the public’s general outlook. Only 14% believe the nation is headed in the right direction – a low unseen since the economic crash five years ago. Over the next year, only 17% expect the American economy to improve, which is also down sharply.
In other words, Washington has effectively punched the nation in the gut, for reasons Republicans have not fully explained and fail to fully understand themselves.
The crisis is not yet over, but even when it’s resolved, it’s going to take some time to recover from this one.