April 11, 2011

Budget Negotiations in a Word – “Ridiculous”

All Sides Blamed After Close Call on Government Shutdown

Overview

The public has an overwhelmingly negative reaction to the budget negotiations that narrowly avoided a government shutdown. A weekend survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press and the Washington Post finds that “ridiculous” is the word used most frequently to describe the budget negotiations, followed by “disgusting,” “frustrating,” “messy,” “disappointing” and “stupid.”

Overall, 69% of respondents use negative terms to describe the budget talks, while just 3% use positive words; 16% use neutral words to characterize their impressions of the negotiations. Large majorities of independents (74%), Democrats (69%) and Republicans (65%) offer negative terms to describe the negotiations.

The full survey was conducted April 7-10 among 1,004 adults; people were asked their impressions of the budget talks in interviews conducted April 9-10, following the April 8 agreement that averted a government shutdown.

All of the principals in the budget showdown are blamed to some extent for the dispute that nearly resulted in the shutdown. Nearly four-in-ten (37%) say they blame Republican congressional leaders “a lot” for the dispute, while 33% say Democratic congressional leaders deserve a lot of blame and 32% say the same about President Obama. About a quarter (27%) say that representatives affiliated with the Tea Party movement deserve a lot of blame.

Solid majorities say all four principal players – GOP leaders, Democratic leaders, Obama and Tea Party-affiliated representatives – deserve at least some blame for the budget dispute. Much smaller percentages say each deserves no blame: 23% Tea Party representatives; 22% Obama; 12% GOP leaders; and 11% Democratic leaders.

Opinions about how much blame the participants deserve changed after the agreement was concluded. In interviewing conducted prior to the deal (April 7-8), 58% said that Tea Party representatives would deserve either a lot or some blame if the government shut down. In polling conducted April 9-10, the number saying Tea Party representatives deserve a least some blame for the dispute jumped to 72%.

More also blamed Obama and Democratic leaders after the agreement than before it. In early interviewing, 66% said that Obama would deserve at least some blame for a possible government shutdown; after the agreement 79% expressed that view. Blame for Democratic leaders rose 10 points (from 77% to 87%) after the budget deal.

Criticism for Tea Party representatives increased among the GOP base after the budget agreement. In polling before the agreement, 40% of Republicans and GOP leaners said Tea Party representatives would deserve some blame if the government shut down. After the agreement, however, 61% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents said that Tea Party representatives in Congress deserved at least some blame for the dispute that nearly led to the shutdown.

Democrats grew more critical of Obama after the budget deal was concluded. Prior to the agreement, 51% of Democrats and Democratic leaners said Obama would deserve a lot or some blame if the government shut down. Following the agreement, 69% of Democrats and Democratic leaners said Obama deserved at least some blame for the budget dispute.