POLITICS

Poll Finds Republicans Would Take More Blame Over DHS Shutdown

02/17/2015 03:21 pm ET | Updated Feb 19, 2015

If the Department of Homeland Security gets shut down later this month over a funding battle, the debate over who's to blame could end up looking like a reprise of the 2013 government shutdown, according to a CNN/ORC poll released Tuesday.

While House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has said the blame over a possible shutdown should lie with Democrats, his own party seems poised to take more heat. Fifty-three percent of Americans said a DHS shutdown would be more the GOP's fault, while 30 percent said more blame would lie with President Barack Obama.

Some House and Senate Republicans have also conceded that they may end up taking the brunt of the criticism for a shutdown. “More likely Republicans will be blamed. We control the House and the Senate,” Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), a former chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, told The Hill last week.

The poll results are a nearly exact mirror of polling taken just before the government shutdown more than a year ago, for which the public's blame also landed largely on the Republicans. In early September 2013, 51 percent said the congressional GOP would be more to blame, and 33 percent blamed Obama. That shutdown resulted in briefly cratering approval for Congress as a whole, but took an especial toll on the GOP, with even Republicans souring on their own party's leaders.

Just 15 percent of Americans say it would be a crisis if DHS shut down for a few days, and 31 percent that it would become a crisis if it lasted a few weeks, but a 55 percent majority see even a several-day shutdown as being at least a major problem. In 2013, 49 percent said the same about an overall government shutdown.

The survey question asks who's to blame "if the Department of Homeland Security shuts down because a new spending bill has not been enacted." It doesn't get into any of the political context surrounding the impasse over immigration funding that's driving the potential shutdown, with Republicans unwilling to pass a spending bill that doesn't roll back Obama's immigration executive actions, and Democrats refusing to support one that does.

Still, it's not clear that everyone blaming the GOP, including the third of Republicans who said a shutdown would be more their party's fault, views the possibility of shutdown as all that bad. Slightly over half of Republicans, compared to just 34 percent of Democrats, said a several-day shutdown would be either a minor problem or none at all.

Overall, the survey finds Americans disapprove of Obama's handling of undocumented immigrants by a 19-point margin. Another recent poll, from the Public Religion Research Institute, found that Americans were far more concerned with passing comprehensive immigration reforms than they were with overturning Obama's policy. Americans largely supported the substance of the president's policies on immigration, but disagreed with his use of executive action.

CNN surveyed 1,027 adults between Feb. 12 and Feb. 15, using live interviewers to reach both cell phones and landlines.

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