The Looming Government Shutdown

NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist National Poll

GOP at Fault If Government Shuts Down, Say Nearly Half of Americans

If the federal government fails to reach a spending agreement and shuts down, nearly half of Americans will point a finger at congressional Republicans. Most Americans also express displeasure with members of Congress using the threat of government shutdown as a tactic in budget negotiations. Despite the perception that Republicans would be most at fault in shutting down the government, Americans think both parties are responsible for the nation’s current level of spending.

A Government Shutdown: Who’s Responsible?
As you may know, Congress must pass another agreement on funding the government by November 17th in order to avoid a government shutdown. Who would you blame more if there is a shutdown of the federal government:
Source: NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist Poll National Adults. Interviews conducted November 6th through November 9th, 2023, n=1,429 MOE +/- 3.4 percentage points. Totals may not add to 100% due to rounding.
  • If the federal government shuts down, 49% of Americans say congressional Republicans would be to blame. 43% say President Biden and congressional Democrats would be at fault, and six percent would blame both the Republicans and Democrats in Congress. Of note, close to one in five Democrats and Republicans would blame members of their own party if the government shuts down.

  • Three in four Americans (75%) say it is not acceptable for members of Congress to threaten a government shutdown during budget negotiations to achieve their goals. 23% believe it is acceptable, up from 14% in a 2015 CBS/New York Times poll. Republicans (37%) are more than twice as likely as Democrats (18%) to say a shutdown can be used as a negotiation tactic.

  • 40% of Americans think the Democratic and Republican Parties share the responsibility for the current level of national debt. 31% think Democrats have ownership of the debt level while 24% say Republicans are responsible.

  • More than six in ten Americans think Congress should authorize additional funding to support the wars in Ukraine and Israel. This includes 35% who say funding should be allocated to support both conflicts, 14% who say the U.S. should provide financial support only to Israel in its war against Hamas, and 12% who say the U.S. should authorize funding to support only Ukraine in its war with Russia. 36% say additional funding should not be authorized for either war.

  • With bipartisan agreement, 69% of Americans, up from 53% in a 2015 Pew Research survey, say the political system can work fine, it’s the members of Congress that present the problem. 25% say congresspeople have good intentions, but the political system is broken.

"Americans are not ready to throw in the towel on the government’s ability to get things done," says Lee M. Miringoff, Director of the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion. "They think the fault lies with the nation’s elected officials in Congress."

Digging In: Americans’ Views of Congress

Six in ten Americans (60%) think congressional Democrats are more unified than their Republican counterparts (27%). One in ten (10%) say neither party in Congress is unified. Most Democrats (86%) and a majority of independents (57%) believe Democrats present a united front in Congress. While 52% of Republicans say the same about the congressional GOP, 36% of Republicans say the Democrats are the more unified party.

59% of Americans think the Republicans in the House of Representatives will have a more difficult time working with Democrats than working with members of their own party (35%).

Americans Urge Johnson to Seek Compromise to Solve Problems

In his new post as Speaker of the House, two in three Americans (67%) urge Mike Johnson to compromise to find solutions. In contrast, 27% say Johnson should stand on principle even if it means gridlock in Congress. Members of Johnson’s GOP base divide. 46% say Johnson should stand on principle while 45% think he should compromise to find solutions.

Speaker Johnson faces low name recognition among Americans, including more than four in ten Republicans. 46% of Americans and 44% of Republicans say they have either never heard of Johnson or cannot form an opinion of him. 23% of Americans have a favorable view of Johnson, and 31% have an unfavorable one. A plurality of Republicans (47%) has a positive impression of Johnson.

Growing Proportion of Americans Say Israel Has Gone Too Far in Its Response to the Attack by Hamas

38% of Americans say Israel’s military response to Hamas has been too much. This is up from 26% in the week following the October attack. 17% say the response has been too little, a decline from 27%, and 38% think the attack has been appropriate. This is down from 44% previously.

Americans, though, are more likely to sympathize with the Israelis (61%) than the Palestinians (30%). While Republicans (79%) and independents (67%) are more likely to express greater sympathy toward Israel, Democrats divide. 45% say they have greater sympathy for Israelis, and the same proportion (45%) say their sympathies are more with the Palestinians.

Most Americans Fear Increased Hate Crimes in the U.S.

Americans are concerned about the domestic implications of the war in the Middle East. 82% of Americans say they are concerned that the war will lead to an increase of hate crimes in the United States. Included here are 45% of residents who are very concerned about this possibility. Worry about an uptick in hate crimes in the U.S. spans the partisan divide.

Majority of Americans Disapprove of Biden’s Handling of the Middle East Conflict

55% of Americans disapprove of how President Biden is handling the war between Israel and Hamas. 40% approve. Biden has lost ground on this issue. In October, 52% of Americans disapproved of Biden’s handling of the situation, and 44% approved.

Overall, Biden has a 42% job approval rating, nearly identical to the 43% he received last month. 51% disapprove. Americans are more than twice as likely to strongly disapprove (43%) of Biden’s job performance than to strongly approve (20%) of it.

Americans Divide about U.S. Role on the World Stage

Half of Americans (50%) think it is crucial for the U.S. to play a major leadership role in world events. 47% say the U.S. should focus on its own problems and take less of a leadership role. Democrats (66%) are more likely than Republicans (46%) and independents (43%) to have a more global view of the role of the United States. Majorities of Republicans (51%) and independents (56%) think the U.S. should focus on domestic matters.