WASHINGTON — Americans give overwhelmingly negative reviews to the fierce budget debate that has transfixed Washington over the past few weeks, and large numbers now think less favorably about the country’s political leaders, according to a new poll by the Washington Post and the Pew Research Center.
Asked for single-word characterizations of the budget negotiations, the top words in the poll — conducted in the days before an apparent deal was struck — were “ridiculous,” “disgusting” and “stupid.” Overall, nearly three-quarters of Americans offered a negative word; just 2 percent had anything nice to say.
“Ridiculous” was the most frequently mentioned word among Democrats, Republicans and independents alike. It was also No. 1 in an April poll about the just-averted government shutdown. In the new poll, the top 27 words are negative ones, with “frustrating,” “poor,” “terrible,” “disappointing,” “childish,” “messy” and “joke” rounding out the top 10.
Summing up their views over the past few weeks, 37 percent in the new poll say they now see President Obama less favorably, about double the number (18 percent) seeing him in a more positive light. A sizable 44 percent say their opinions have not changed one way or the other, but the negative tilt may hurt the president, who is already at or near career lows in Post-ABC News and Pew poll s.
For House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, the split is even worse, with about three times as many saying their opinion of him has deteriorated rather than improved over the past few weeks (34 percent less favorable; 11 percent more so).
But one group where Boehner appears to have scored well is among those who agree with the tea party political movement: A majority of Republicans — 54 percent — who side with the tea party say they now see the speaker more positively. Despite major rifts within the GOP, Boehner’s success appealing to tea party Republicans has not come at the expense of others, as 61 percent of other Republicans say their opinion of the speaker hasn’t changed over the past few weeks.
On the other side of the aisle, the fiercest intraparty criticism of Obama has been from liberals, but in the new poll, moderate and conservative Democrats are three times as likely as are liberal Democrats to say their opinion of Obama has deteriorated over the past few weeks. Just 7 percent of liberal Democrats say so; most, 55 percent, say their opinions are unchanged, and 37 percent say they are now more favorable.
To the extent that both sides were trying to appeal to political independents, the past few weeks appear to have had little positive effect. Just 13 percent of independents say they now view Obama more favorably (38 percent say less); fewer, only 7 percent, now see Boehner in a more positive light.
Nor has the spotlight in the past few weeks helped Congress: Nearly one in five independents say they think less of both congressional Democrats and Republicans as a result of the budget negotiations. Not a single one of the independents interviewed now thinks more highly of both sides.
The Washington Post-ABC News poll was conducted by telephone July 14-17, among a random national sample of 1,001 adults, including users of both conventional and cellular phones. The results from the full survey have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points. Sampling, data collection and tabulation by Abt-SRBI of New York.