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Republicans may take more blame for shutdown, poll says

By Sarah Dutton, Jennifer De Pinto, Anthony Salvanto and Fred Backus

With the  

budget deadline rapidly approaching  as September comes to an end, there is finger-pointing across the political aisle over a possible government shutdown, according to a CBS News/New York Times poll released Wednesday.

Most Republicans would lay more of the blame on President Obama and the Democrats in Congress, while Democrats would blame the Republicans in Congress.

When the government did shut down after a similar budget battle back in November 1995, 51 percent of Americans blamed the Republicans in Congress, while 28 percent blamed Bill Clinton.

If the government shuts down, the Republicans in Congress may take more of the blame: 44 percent of Americans say they would blame the Republicans in Congress more if there is a partial shutdown of the federal government on Oct. 1, while fewer - 35 percent - would put more of the blame on Barack Obama and the Democrats in Congress. Sixteen percent volunteer that they would blame both sides equally.



Americans are split on whether or not there will be an agreement that will avert a government shutdown. Forty-eight percent think there probably will be an agreement between the president and Republicans in Congress, while 47 president think there probably will not. Most Democrats (55 percent) are optimistic, while Republicans are divided, and most independents (52 percent) are skeptical.

Few Americans are looking forward to a government shutdown. Eighty-seven percent of Americans and large majorities of Republicans, Democrats, and independents say they are mostly frustrated about the possibility of a government shutdown.

The Debt Ceiling Battle

But another fiscal deadline looms in October - the possibility of the United States defaulting on its debts if the debt ceiling isn't raised. As they did in January, most Americans want the debt ceiling raised along with accompanying spending cuts, while 17 percent want the debt ceiling raised without any conditions tied to cuts in federal spending. Only a quarter think the debt ceiling should not be raised at all, though this percentage has risen six points since the debt ceiling battle last January.



But if forced to choose, Americans would rather see compromise than default: 69 percent of Americans prefer a debt ceiling agreement they don't fully support to the U.S. not paying its obligations.

Most Americans think it is at least somewhat likely that their own family will be affected if the federal debt ceiling is not raised - including 32 percent who think this is very likely. More Democrats than Republicans think this possibility is likely.

Budget Debates and the Health Care Law

Amid these fiscal debates, six in 10 Americans think any agreement on the budget or debt ceiling should be kept separate from discussions on 

the health care law . Thirty-one percent (including 54 percent of Republicans) think any agreement should also cut off funding for the law.

As to what specifically they would like to see Congress do, more than half want Congress to uphold the health care law and make it work as well as possible (56 percent) rather than cut off funding for it (38 percent). Perhaps not surprisingly, there are stark partisan differences here: most Republicans want Congress to cut off funding for the law, while most Democrats want it kept in place. Tea party Republicans are especially likely to want to see funding for the health care law cut off - 84 percent do.

What Should Congress Do About the Health Care Law?

The nearly four in 10 Americans who want to stop the law by  

cutting off funding  divide further: 19 percent of Americans are willing to risk a government shutdown to cut off funding, but 17 percent are not. Almost half (44 percent) of Republicans support cutting off funding for the law and say it is worth shutting down the government. Significantly fewer Democrats (3 percent) and independents favor that approach (17 percent).

Views of the Affordable Care Act

Opinions of the health care law overall continue to be negative. With health insurance exchanges set to open up for enrollment on Oct. 1, 39 percent of Americans now approve of the health care law, but more - 51 percent - disapprove, similar to views in July. Since the law was enacted in 2010, more have disapproved than approved of it.

Some Americans express concern about the health care law's impact - on themselves personally and on the U.S. economy. While most say the law has not personally affected them so far, 39 percent expect the law will eventually hurt them - twice as many as say it will help them.

Nearly half also see an economic downside. Forty-nine percent think the health care law will hurt the national economy, while 26 percent think it will improve it. Eighteen percent say it will have no effect.

Views of the law and its impact are colored by partisanship. Most Republicans and a slim majority of independents oppose the health care law, including 64 percent of Republicans who are strongly opposed to it. Large majorities of Republicans think the health care law will ultimately hurt them personally and do damage to the national economy. On the other hand, most Democrats approve of the health care law and are less likely to think it will adversely affect them or the economy.

There are other demographic differences as well. Americans currently without health insurance view the health care law more positively and are more likely to think the law will help them compared to those who have insurance. Thirty percent of Americans without insurance think the law will help them, while fewer (16 percent) of those with insurance think that.

Also, younger Americans (those under age 30) are more likely than those who are older to see a potential benefit in the law for them personally. Men and women hold similar views of the health care law: more disapprove than approve of it.

Seven in 10 Americans feel they know at least some about the health care law, but three years after becoming law, only 20 percent feel they know a lot about it. A quarter knows little or nothing about the health care law.

Some confusion remains about how the law will impact their families. Fifty-one percent say they are confused about the effect it will have on them - a percentage that hasn't wavered much since March 2010, shortly after the law was enacted. Forty-six percent say they have a good understanding of how the law will affect their family.


This poll was conducted by telephone from September 19-23, 2013 among 1,014 adults nationwide. Data collection was conducted on behalf of CBS News by Social Science Research Solutions of Media, Pa. Phone numbers were dialed from samples of both standard land-line and cell phones. The error due to sampling for results based on the entire sample could be plus or minus three percentage points. The error for subgroups may be higher. Interviews were conducted in English and Spanish. This poll release conforms to the Standards of Disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

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