Poll: 72% Oppose Government Shutdown Linked to Health Care

By Greg Giroux | October 1, 2013

In a rejection of congressional Republicans’ strategy, Americans overwhelmingly oppose undermining President Barack Obama’s health-care law by shutting down the federal government or resisting an increase in the nation’s debt limit, according to a poll released today.

By 72 percent to 22 percent, Americans oppose Congress “shutting down major activities of the federal government” as a way to stop the Affordable Care Act from going into effect, the national survey from Quinnipiac University found.

By 64 percent to 27 percent, voters don’t want Congress to block an increase in the nation’s $16.7 trillion federal borrowing limit as a way to thwart implementation of the health- care law, which Obama signed into law in 2010 with a goal of insuring millions of Americans, known as “Obamacare.”

A majority of the public, 58 percent, is opposed to cutting off funding for the insurance program that begins enrollment today. Thirty-four percent support defunding it.

While objecting to tactics embraced by House Republicans to thwart the health-care law, Americans are divided on the president’s job performance and the law.

By 49 percent to 45 percent, more voters disapprove than approve of how Obama is handling his job as president. They oppose the health-care law by 47 percent to 45 percent.

“Americans are certainly not in love with Obamacare, but they reject decisively the claim by congressional Republicans that it is so bad that it’s worth closing down the government to stop it,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Hamden, Connecticut-based polling institute.

Government Shutdown

The fight over Obamacare led to the first partial government shutdown since 1996, as Democrats and Republicans last night failed to agree on a funding measure before the new fiscal year began.

The Democratic-led Senate yesterday rejected a short-term budget measure passed by the Republican-led House that would have delayed parts of the health-care law for one year.

Democrats say Republicans are re-litigating a law enacted more than three years ago that was deemed constitutional by the Supreme Court in June 2012 and validated by Obama’s re-election last November.

Republicans say the health-care law is unpopular with Americans and stunting job growth.

The partial government shutdown puts as many as 800,000 federal employees out of work starting today. It could shave as much as 1.4 percentage points from fourth-quarter economic growth, depending on how long the budget impasse lasts, according to some economists.

Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew has said that extraordinary measures being used to avoid breaching the debt ceiling will be exhausted no later than Oct. 17.

Debt Ceiling

About three in five Americans reject Obama’s call for a “clean” debt-ceiling increase and say it’s “right to require spending cuts when the debt ceiling is raised” even if it risks default, according to a Bloomberg National Poll conducted Sept. 20-23.

The political implications of a government shutdown and an impasse over the debt ceiling are unclear 13 months before the midterm congressional elections.

Voters prefer a Democratic House candidate to a Republican by 43 percent to 34 percent, the Quinnipiac poll found. The Democratic edge stems in part from the poor national image of the Republican Party, which voters disapprove of by 74 percent to 17 percent. Sixty percent of voters dislike the job Democrats are doing, compared with 32 percent who approve.

Party Control

Democrats need a net gain of 17 seats to win a majority in the 435-member House of Representatives, which Republicans now control by 232 seats to 200. There are three vacancies, two in districts that Republicans vacated. Democrats need an edge in national surveys to overcome district-by-district advantages for Republicans, who benefited in the 2012 House elections from favorable district lines and demographics.

“In general, the Republican brand is down as evidenced by the Democrats’ unusually large lead in the so-called generic ballot,” Brown said. “But we have 13 months before an election can translate this public opinion edge into electoral gains and in politics that amount of time is forever.”

The Quinnipiac poll was conducted Sept. 23-29 of 1,497 registered voters and had a sampling margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 percentage points.

–Editors: Jeanne Cummings, Mark Silva

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