A Gallup poll released today shows that consequences of past government shut downs “ranged from none to short-lived.” In particular, the effect of shutting down the government had little effect on Americans and their opinions about the political players involved.
The 1995/1996 closure, which occurred when — just like today — Republican leaders in Congress and a Democratic president failed to agree on the budget, did little to impact Americans’ views of President Bill Clinton, Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, Congress itself, the U.S. economy, and the country in general in the months after the shutdown began.
In November 1995, prior to the government shut down, Clinton’s job approval was at 52%, it dropped 10 points in December but was back up to 52% by March 1995 after the shut down ended.
Newt Gingrich, Speaker of the House during the 95-96 shut down, also suffered little long term consequences to his political image. Although low to begin with, “his favorability rating actually ticked up slightly just after the shutdown ended. But by February and March of 1996, Americans’ views of Gingrich were right back to where they were prior to the budget battle — relatively low — and stayed that way.”
Gallup notes that the opinions of Congress are already at record lows. But something important to remember is that Gallup polls the entire country on generic opinions of Congress and Congressional members. I’ll bet in a district specific or state surveys the opinions of specific Congressional representation are much stronger. Congress doesn’t answer to the American people per se, they answer to their constituents and I am certain that tells a very different story.