The debt negotiations were not kind to the approval ratings of Republicans in Congress. The debate over how to cut the debt further may reinforce the opinions the public have formed. From Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight:
There has been various circumstantial evidence that the public’s dissatisfaction with the performance of Congress, particularly during the debt ceiling debate, could threaten the Republican majority in the House of Representatives. Disapproval ratings for the Congress are at record highs, as are disapproval ratings for the Republican Party. Other polls show record numbers of Americans saying that their representative should not be re-elected, that most members of Congress should not be re-elected, or both.
What we haven’t had, however, are polls comparing Democrats against Republicans in a direct way. That’s why the poll that Gallup published Friday ought to concern Republicans. It shows a 7-point Democratic advantage on the generic Congressional ballot – meaning simply that more Americans told Gallup they plan to vote for a Democrat for Congress next year. Although the generic ballot is a crude measure, it is probably the best macro-level indicator of the direction that the House is headed in.
Last year, Republicans won the popular vote for the U.S. House – essentially what the generic ballot is trying to measure – by 7 percentage points. So a poll showing Democrats 7 points ahead instead is a pretty significant swing.
There is a major battle looming that will create major trouble for the Republican Party on a generic ballot and their bid against President Obama. Bipartisan bargaining is set to take place over the “super committee” and a hypothetical $1.6 trillion deal to reduce the debt. All of the potential Republican nominees for president have said they would not accept a debt deal that raises taxes, even if the cuts-to-tax ratio was 10-1. Rep. Ryan has forewarned his party that they should “dig in” and stand strong against any tax increases in the supercommittee. This contrasts sharply with the American people who in 23 separate polls, by no less than a 20 point margin, want some sort of tax increases included in a bipartisan deal.
The intransigence of Republican leadership in accepting any sort of compromise will likely lead to the same sort of losses in public opinion polling the GOP experienced during the debt deal debacle, further speculation from credit rating agencies and an inevitable sharp dive in the stock market. The danger for them is furthering the notion that President Obama is with the middle of the country, just trying to forge a bipartisan compromise. It is really a matter of how much the Republican party feels like pandering to their base at the expense of losing the hearts of the rest of the American public. At this point, I would advise against digging in.