While Obama’s numbers aren’t stellar on that same spending question — 52 percent disapproval — he is in considerably stronger shape than his Republican adversaries as Washington braces for the $1.2 trillion in automatic cuts known as the sequester to take effect on Friday. In fact, Obama’s 43 percent overall approval on his handling of federal spending is the same number as those who strongly disapprove of how congressional Republicans are handling it.
As we have seen in other recent polling, a major part of Republicans’ overall approval problem — in this case on federal spending — comes from divisions within their own party.
Forty-four percent of self-identified Republicans approve of how their side is handling spending issues, while 51 percent disapprove. Even the base of the party is less than enthusiastic about how the congressional GOP has approached the issue — with 50 percent of conservative Republicans approving and 49 percent disapproving. Compare that to the nearly nine in ten (87 percent) of liberal Democrats who approve of how Obama has handled federal spending.
Here’s another way to look at it: Roughly one in three (34 percent) of respondents disapprove of both Obama and congressional Republicans’ handling of federal spending issues. You’d expect disapproval of both sides to be highest among independents, those fence-sitters who don’t fit neatly into either party. You’d be wrong. While 40 percent of independents disapprove of both actors in this drama, 45 percent of Republicans feel the same way. (Just 18 percent of Democrats go for the “pox on both your houses” approach.)
The poll isn’t great news for anyone involved in the debate over how much the federal government should spend — and on what. When a majority of the American public disapproves of how you are handling one of the major issues, not just of the day but of our time, it’s not good.
That said, Republicans have put their battle to rein in federal spending front and center as they seek to (re)define who they are as a party. And, at least according to these numbers, that effort has yet to pay dividends — even within their own base.