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Poll finds Americans united in their disgust over debt-ceiling process

A Pew Research Center survey finds a staggering 72% have nothing but derision for Congress' divisiveness.

August 01, 2011|By Michael Muskal
  • US Rep. Paul Ryan ,R-WI, speaks during a press conference with House Republican leadership at the US Capitol in Washington, DC. With time running out before the August 2 deadline to reach an agreement on the debt ceiling, Congress is working to strike a deal that would avoid a potential federal default next week.
US Rep. Paul Ryan ,R-WI, speaks during a press conference with House Republican… (Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty…)

People may disagree about the value of the pending debt-ceiling compromise, but the one thing that seems to unite just about everyone, regardless of their political leanings, is that the recent negotiations were a low point in the political process, according to a poll released Monday by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press and the Washington Post.

While the Washington political world seemed sharply divided in the partisan deadlock of democracy, the rest of the country found unity in seeing the misery. A staggering 72% had nothing but derision in describing the process, using terms such as a "ridiculous," "disgusting," "stupid" and "frustrating." Other frequently used terms included "terrible," "disappointing," "childish" and "a joke," the survey found.

But all was not completely bleak: 2% found something nice to say about the process and 11% said they were neutral despite the wave of media coverage on the issue. Democrats were more likely than Republicans to have a positive view, but it was still just 4%.

About the only good thing in the poll was that the battle seems to have brought people together, but perhaps not in the way politicians would most like. The survey, conducted July 28-31 among 1,001 adults, finds that negativity reigned across the usual lines of political demarcation. According to the poll, 75% of Republicans, 72% of Democrats and 72% of independents gave similar views. Republicans seeing themselves as part of the “tea party” movement were particularly negative at 83%.

The overall margin of error was plus or minus 4 percentage points, though it climbed to as much as 7.5 percentage points when the groups were broken down by political identification.

“This process has been messy,” President Obama said Sunday night in announcing the compromise agreement that is working its way through Congress. About 14% of Americans used the same word, though twice as many, 29%, were more graphic, calling the negotiations “ridiculous,” according to the poll.

The fighting has cast mud on the images of both Obama and House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio. About a third of those surveyed said they came to have a less favorable view of each leader in recent weeks.

Republicans overall took a hit as well, with 42% saying their impression of the GOP in Congress had become less favorable; 30% said they were now less enchanted with congressional Democrats. About 37% said they now had a worse impression of Congress members affiliated with the tea party movement, while 11% said they now viewed the group more favorably.

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