The ongoing stalemate over the federal government shutdown and the prospect of debt default has damaged public confidence in the country, its economy, and in the Republican Party specifically, according to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.
The survey, conducted as President Barack Obama and Republican congressional leaders grope for a way out of the crisis, shows the mood of Americans descending to depths comparable to those reached during the fall 2008 Wall Street crisis. Just 14 percent say the nation is heading in the right direction, around half the percentage who felt that way just a month ago. Fully 78 percent call the country on the wrong track, matching the result in October 2008.
Accompanying that shift is a sharp decline in economic confidence. By 42 percent to 17 percent, Americans now expect the economy to get worse rather than better in the next year. A plurality had been expressing optimism since the summer.
At the same time, the survey underscores the intense pressures on congressional Republican leaders to find a way out of the stalemate. For while the fallout has affected the entire country, it has inflicted particular harm on the GOP.
Most Americans—53 percent—blame Republicans in Congress for the shutdown, compared with 31 percent who blame Obama. In the shutdown fight that pitted President Bill Clinton against House Speaker Newt Gingrich in the winter of 1995-96, the proportion blaming Republicans never reached 50 percent in the NBC/WSJ poll.
Just 24 percent of Americans express a favorable view of the Republican Party. More than twice that many, 53 percent, express an unfavorable view. It is the worst showing for the GOP in the quarter-century history of the NBC/WSJ poll. Fully 70 percent disapprove of the job congressional Republicans are doing, compared with 59 percent who disapprove of congressional Democrats.
Seven in 10 Americans overall, and eight in 10 independents, say the Republicans are putting their political agenda before what's good for the country. Just 27 percent say Republicans are demonstrating strong leadership.