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Topics: Obamacare

Government shutdown polls not the same as 1995-96

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Beltway Confidential,Michael Barone,Obamacare,Bill Clinton,Health Care,Polls,Government Shutdown

Election and polling analyst Harry Enten has been writing some excellent blog posts for The Guardian. This one is on the difference between today's polling on government shutdowns and the polling on the confrontation between Newt Gingrich and Bill Clinton in 1995-96. Enten points out that in 1995-96 many more voters said they would blame congressional Republicans than Democratic presidents; today the numbers are about equal. My interpretation: Voters are quietly picking up on the fact that Barack Obama doesn't do policy very well, certainly not nearly as well as Clinton did.

Voters' predictions of their response to future hypotheticals are not always accurate, however, Enten looks at what happened after the shutdowns of 1995-96. Clinton's and congressional Republicans' numbers both dropped at first; similarly, Obama's and congressional Republicans' numbers dropped when the grand bargain negotiations failed in August 2011. But Clinton's numbers then shot up and so did those of congressional Republicans. Clinton won re-election, and Republicans lost only two seats in the House compared to 1994.

I still don't think it's a good idea for Republicans to provoke a shutdown by demanding the defunding of Obamacare. Their goal should be policy success, and in current circumstances they can only achieve incremental success, not the ending of Obamacare. But the shutdown numbers are not as dire as some suppose.

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