More Evidence “The Narrative” Hasn’t Quite Sunk In

With the release of a new WaPo/ABC poll taken late last week, it’s reasonably clear yesterday’s CNN-ORC survey didn’t represent any sort of outlier: so far the cries of scandal hysteria that gripped big segments of the MSM all that week aren’t much shared by the public, at least in terms of basic feelings towards the president and the parties in Congress. Obama’s job approval ratio is 51/44, pretty much where it’s been in the WaPo/ABC survey (with the exception of a brief uptick around the New Year) since late last summer, though “disapproval” is down a bit. Americans have clearly heard a lot about the “scandals,” but reaction to them continues to break down largely along party lines.

Generally speaking, the numbers are likely to tempt congressional Republicans to raise the volume of their shrieking about Benghazi! and the IRS another notch or two in hopes that with the help of MSM echoes they’ll achieve a public opinion breakthrough. But there’s a brace of questions that might give them pause: asked if congressional Republicans are “mainly concentrating on things that are important to you personally,” 33% say “yes,” 60% “no” (the answers on that question among independents are even a bit worse than the overall numbers). Congressional Democrats do significantly better on that question (43/50), and the president does better than either (51/44).

So in trying to align public opinion with their belief that all the problems facing a country that’s still struggling economically should be forgotten while we all obsess about who did what when in a complex and increasingly distant set of circumstances in Benghazi or Cincinnati, congressional Republicans may just convince people they are more out of touch than ever. I don’t think there is even a remote possibility the GOP can or will let up now (probably less that the possibility that House members will spend their final days still croaking about Benghazi! in nursing facilities). But if the numbers stay the way they are looking right now, Republicans will eventually have to choose between feeding the beast of “the base” or trying to look like a responsive and relevant political party.

Support Nonprofit Journalism

If you enjoyed this article, consider making a donation to help us produce more like it. The Washington Monthly was founded in 1969 to tell the stories of how government really works—and how to make it work better. Fifty years later, the need for incisive analysis and new, progressive policy ideas is clearer than ever. As a nonprofit, we rely on support from readers like you.

Yes, I’ll make a donation

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.