Bright and early on Monday, CNN released its latest results tracking public opinion on the federal government. Conducted by CNN and ORC International, a global research firm, the poll interviewed 841 American adults from October 18-20. This mix of landline and cell phone calls informed researchers that, by and large, respondents thought Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) ought to lose his speakership and that the Republican Congressional leadership is bad for the country.
Conducted immediately after the government shutdown ended, the poll makes for splashy headlines. The Washington Times uses the data to claim in a headline that “John Boehner must go,” while The Hill wrote about how the majority of citizens disapprove of House leadership for the country. But don’t take to heart that this means the speaker will be packing his bags or leaving office anytime soon; nor will Republicans be on their way out.
The poll only tells part of the story, and like other national polls, it is of little use in effectively evaluating the U.S. House of Representatives. To see why CNN and ORC International’s poll cannot accurately grasp the political picture of the nation, a closer look needs to be taken at the numbers and the reasons behind the shutdown.
On the first day of the shutdown, October 1, the National Journal compared the current Republican-controlled House to the group in 1995, the year of the last government shutdown. By comparing party demographics of the two, the Journal found that 2013′s Republicans are more secure within their conservative districts than those in 1995. National threats will mean little to these entrenched Republicans, because at home, they have a wellspring of support.
Traces of this are visible in the CNN/ORC poll. When respondents were asked who they have more confidence in, Congressional Republicans or President Barack Obama, 74 percent of self-identified Republicans chose their Congressional counterparts, while 87 percent of Democrats chose Obama. Turning to independents is of little help: 30 percent picked the capricious Congress and 34 percent favored the president, findings that are within the 5 percent margin of error for the question.