The media narrative is that "both sides" are to blame for the government shutdown, and that is to a great degree self-fulfilling. The media tells you that both sides are to blame, and then they point at polls and say, "See? Both sides are to blame!" Given the main stream media's best efforts to put the blame on both sides, it is rather remarkable what is actually happening: not only do Americans blame Republicans for the shutdown over Democrats by roughly a 10-point margin, the president's ratings have actually improved as Congressional Republicans drown in disapproval.
An ABC News/Washington Post poll out yesterday that shows disapproval of Congressional Republicans shooting up to 70% from 63% last week also shows approval of president's handling of the crisis rising by 4 points from 41% to 45% in the same time period. Republican approval went down to 24% from 26% and the president's disapproval went from 50 to 51%. In other words, on the net, Republicans lost 9 points, and the president made up 3.
Just to put it in perspective, President Obama's approval on the handling of the crisis outstrips GOP's by 21 points, and the GOP's disapproval outstrips the president's by 19 points. Said another way, Republicans are upside down by 46 points, and the president by 6. That's a 40 point gap under which GOP is being stomped.
And in a Pew Research Center poll, also released yesterday, show that the gap between Republicans and the president on who gets the lion's share of the blame has widened by 5 points since two weeks ago. In that poll, respondents blame the GOP over Obama by a 38-30 margin, as opposed to the 39-36 gap just two weeks ago.
Both of these polls also show something remarkable that the headline numbers do not address: the new American demographics are moving much faster for President Obama than the overall samples.
President Obama's approval on the handling of the crisis is even among women in the ABC/WaPo survey, and non-whites overwhelmingly approve of the president's handling: by a whopping 63-32 margin. A week ago, the president was upside down among women by 11 points but up among non-whites by a nearly-identical margin. Non-whites disapprove of the Republican handling by a 62-point margin (78-16), and women disapprove of the GOP's handling by a nearly equally enormous 55 points (75-20). These are expanded from 36 and 41 points a week ago, respectively.
Democrats in Congress lie somewhere between the president and the Republicans in Congress, but as is generally the case, the lead on Democrats' numbers is really the president as the leader of Democrats.
There's a reason these numbers are especially important. The Pew poll notes that women and lower income Americans - i.e. minorities - are much more concerned about the shutdown and the impending debt ceiling crisis than affluent white men. 55% of women are very concerned about the GOP shutdown's economic impact, compared to only 41% of men. Interestingly, seniors have the highest concern among all the age groups, and I'd take an educated guess that that's in good part the reason for the Republicans losing support. Basically, what this means is that people who are more concerned about the economic impact and already likely to be Democratic voters are moving more and more solidly behind the president while Republicans are losing the support of seniors.
All in all, while Americans by and large aren't pleased with Washington's performance - and especially disgusted with Congress' performance - the Republican plan to "take down the president with them" if they can't have what they want isn't working out. At least not in public polling. The president's handling of the crisis has actually been edging up, while the Republicans' ratings have gone from bad to freefall.
These polls join others showing Democrats likely having crossed the thresholds they will need to pick up the House in 2014. Perhaps that's one reason the Chamber of Commerce is getting ready to fight the Tea Party, in primaries.
Speaker Boehner may be bad at math, but he should be able read these numbers clear as day. The topline numbers may paper over just how much more blame Republicans get over the president, but thee internals are scathing. The president's ratings, given the media and GOP assault, are holding remarkably well, and Republican numbers are sinking faster than a stone even with all the help from the media's "both sides are at fault" narrative. I know that Boehner is worried that the Tea Party may sink some Republicans if he lets the government resume operations, but it's pretty clear that the Tea Party is sinking the entire GOP with a noose around its neck.