President Obama is beating Republicans in the battle over public perception of the government shutdown. A new CBS News poll conducted during the first two days of the shutdown finds that 44 percent of Americans think we can all thank the Republican party for the mess we're in, while 33 percent blame Democrats and Obama. But Democrats shouldn't take too much comfort in that survey. During the last shutdown — seen as a disaster for Republicans — polls showed public opinion tilted far more in favor of then-President Bill Clinton.
Republican leaders, with the 1995 showdown with Clinton in mind, hoped to avoid shuttering the government. But conservative activists, led most visibly by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, demanded Republicans threaten a shutdown if Democrats wouldn't defund Obamacare. Republican congressional leaders relented. Now, the public reaction is pretty much what those top Republicans feared. A large majority of Americans, 72 percent, don't approve of shutting down the government over the Affordable Care Act. Even 59 percent of those who oppose Obamacare are also against the shutdown. Less than half of Republicans, 48 percent, support the shutdown, while 49 percent are against it.
Still, there's some good news for House Republicans. The last time the government shut down, Clinton also had much more support that the Republican-controlled Congress. At the time, according to CBS, 51 percent of Americans blamed Republicans for the shutdown and only 25 percent blamed Clinton. According to a Pew report, 57 percent of Americans polled between the first and second shutdown thought Clinton was standing up for important priorities, while 52 percent thought the Republicans were trying to gain a political advantage. Both then and now, more than 70 percent of Americans didn't approve of using a shutdown as a bargaining tool.
And whereas most of America agreed with Clinton on limiting cuts to Medicare, polls show most of America isn't sold on Obamacare. Clinton may have "won" his shutdown, assuming anyone wins with these things, but Obama's dealing with entirely different circumstances.