Two polls released this week show a public split on whether to blame Republicans or Democrats if the federal government shuts down later this week.
The Pew Research Center and Washington Post surveys each found that Americans are equally ready to blame either the Republicans or the Obama administration. In the Pew poll, 39 percent say Republicans would be to blame and 36 percent said that Obama administation would be more to blame. In the Washington Post poll, an equal percentage (37 percent) said Republicans and the Obama administration would be more responsible.
In a survey conducted at the end of February for both Pew and the Washington Post, 36 percent of respondents said they would blame Republicans for a potential shutdown and 35 percent said they would blame Obama. All three polls asked the identical question.
But the polls also hint that Republicans will need to walk a fine line between angering the Republican base and finding the compromise desired by the majority of Americans.
The new Washington Post poll suggests a shutdown could hurt the public image of Republicans more than Democrats. Sixty-two percent of respondents said they thought Republicans were playing politics while only 31 percent said Republicans were honestly trying to solve the budget impasse. By contrast, 51 percent said they thought the Obama administration was playing politics and 43 percent said the administration was trying to resolve the issue.
But Pew survey may explain why Republicans are willing to face the threat of a shutdown despite the possibility the public will largely blame them for a government stoppage. Although the poll found most respondents wanted to see a compromise -- 36 percent said that like-minded lawmakers should "stand by their principles, even if that means the government shuts down" while 55 percent said those lawmakers should "be more willing to compromise, even if that means they pass a budget you disagree with," Republican respondents were more likely to say they wanted lawmakers who shared their views to stand by their principles.
Fifty percent of Republican respondents overall and 56 percent of conservative Republicans said they would rather have like-minded lawmakers stand by their principles, while only 43 percent (and 40 percent of conservative Republicans) said they would prefer for like-minded lawmakers to compromise. 68 percent of Republican respondents who said they agreed with the Tea Party movement said they would prefer for lawmakers who agree with them to stand on principle.
The Washington Post poll was conducted March 31-April 3 among 1,008 adults and has a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points. The Pew poll was conducted March 30-April 3 among 1,507 adults and had a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points. The field work for both polls was conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International.