Republicans hit all-time low in Gallup poll. Is shutdown to blame?

In just a month, public approval of the Republican Party has dropped 10 points, from 38 to 28 percent, according to a Gallup poll conducted in the early days of the government shutdown.

J. Scott Applewhite/AP
House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio arrived on Capitol Hill in Washington, Oct. 9. President Obama is pressuring Mr. Boehner to hold votes to avoid a potentially catastrophic default and re-open the federal government, as a new poll indicated Republicans could pay a political price for Washington's fiscal paralysis.

The Republican Party is viewed favorably by only 28 percent of the American public, a 10-percentage-point drop in just the past month, according to the latest Gallup poll.

It's the lowest favorability number ever recorded for either party by Gallup, which began asking the question in 1992. Democrats’ favorability also dropped in the last month, down four percentage points from 47 percent to 43 percent.

The poll was conducted from Oct. 3 to Oct. 6, in the early days of the ongoing government shutdown.

The shutdown is the result of a GOP impasse with President Obama and the Democrats over government funding in the fiscal year that began Oct. 1. Republicans are demanding that the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, be defunded as a condition for new federal government funding.

Also looming is the so-called debt ceiling – the limit on federal borrowing authority, which the Treasury says will be reached on Oct. 17. If Congress doesn’t approve more borrowing, the government could default on its debts.

“The Republican Party is clearly taking a bigger political hit from Americans thus far in the unfolding saga,” writes Andrew Dugan of Gallup, who notes that a month ago, the GOP had made up ground on key issues. “Thus, the Republican Party’s current strategy in the fiscal debates may not be paying dividends.”

In mid-September, Gallup found that the Democrats had lost their edge in public opinion over which party would manage the economy better in the next few years. It’s not that the Republicans had gained in approval; the Democrats declined, putting the two parties at rough parity. Democrats also lost ground on national security, declining to 39 percent. Republicans held steady at 45 percent approval.

In its latest poll, Gallup also notes that both parties are down in public opinion from where they were after the 2012 elections. The political battles of 2013 have had a “corrosive effect on the two parties' images,” Mr. Dugan says.

Democrats are surely happy to be the party that has lost less ground during the budget impasse and government shutdown. But perhaps the best news of the day for the Democrats is the announcement that Rep. Bill Young (R) of Florida is retiring after 22 terms in the House. He represents a moderate district in St. Petersburg, Fla. – President Obama won it with slim majorities in both 2008 and 2012 – and Congressman Young’s departure puts the seat in play.

After Young’s announcement, the nonpartisan Cook Political Report moved the district, Florida-13, into the tossup column. Democrats still face a steep climb to retake the House, given that most seats are safe for one or the other party, but with only a 17-seat margin, every shift to tossup matters.

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