Nate Silver, the respected poll data cruncher who accurately predicted the 2012 election results, wrote a piece today for his blog FiveThirtyEight cautioning against all the heated analysis predicting doom for Republicans as a result of the shutdown.
Silver notes that any given issue tends to be fleeting, and that the last shutdown in 1995 didn’t noticeably hurt Republicans at all.
Republicans certainly need such assurances, as yet another poll – this one by NBC/Wall Street Journal – finds them at their lowest approval rating ever, with only 24 percent giving them having a favorable rating. Meanwhile, the gap in blame between President Obama and the GOP has opened up, with 53 percent blaming Republicans for the shutdown and only 31 percent blaming Obama.
Read More – White House Dossier.
Here is a Bit of Nate Silver’s article from his temporary Home at GrantLand
1. The media is probably overstating the magnitude of the shutdown’s political impact.
Remember Syria? The fiscal cliff? Benghazi? The IRS scandal? The collapse of immigration reform? All of these were hyped as game-changing political moments by the news media, just as so many stories were during the election last year. In each case, the public’s interest quickly waned once the news cycle turned over to another story. Most political stories have a fairly short half-life and won’t turn out to be as consequential as they seem at the time.
Or consider the other story from President Obama’s tenure in office that has the most parallels to the shutdown: the tense negotiations, in 2011, over the federal debt ceiling. The resolution to that crisis, which left voters across the political spectrum dissatisfied, did have some medium-term political impact: Obama’s approval ratings declined to the low 40s from the high 40s, crossing a threshold that historically marks the difference between a reelected president and a one-termer, and congressional approval ratings plunged to record lows.
But Obama’s approval ratings reverted to the high 40s by early 2012, enough to facilitate his reelection. Meanwhile, reelection rates for congressional incumbents were close to their long-term averages.
None of this applies if the United States actually does default on its debt this time around, or if the U.S. shutdown persists for as long as Belgium’s. But if the current round of negotiations is resolved within the next week or so, they might turn out to have a relatively minor impact by November 2014.
2. The impact of the 1995-96 shutdowns is overrated in Washington’s mythology.
But what about the pair of government shutdowns in 1995 and 1996? It’s common to find articles asserting, without qualification, that they were a major factor in prompting President Clinton’s reelection.
However, the empirical evidence for this claim is thin. Clinton’s approval ratings were somewhat higher a few months after the shutdown than a few months beforehand — but this was part of a relatively steady, long-term trend toward improved approval ratings for Clinton, probably because of solid economic growth.
Nor was Clinton’s victory over Bob Dole in 1996 anything unexpected. Incumbent presidents generally win reelection even under marginal conditions (as Barack Obama did last year) — and they’re overwhelming favorites during peacetime elections when the economy is robust, as it was during 1996. Furthermore, Clinton did not have much in the way of coattails: Democrats gained just two seats in the House that November, and wouldn’t win back the chamber for another decade.
3. Democrats face extremely unfavorable conditions in trying to regain the House.
Even if the shutdown were to have a moderate political impact — and one that favored the Democrats in races for Congress — it might not be enough for them to regain control of the U.S. House. Instead, Democrats face two major headwinds as they seek to win back Congress.
First, there are extremely few swing districts — only one-half to one-third as many as when the last government shutdown occurred in 1996. Some of this is because of partisan gerrymandering, but more of it is because of increasingly sharp ideological divides along geographic lines: between urban and rural areas, between the North and the South, and between the coasts and the interior of the United States.
So even if Democrats make significant gains in the number of votes they receive for the House, they would flip relatively few seats because of the way those votes are distributed. Most of the additional votes would come in districts that Democrats were already assured of winning, or where they were too far behind to catch up.
Read the rest – The Six Big Takeaways From the Government Shutdown