History Suggests Shutdown Stakes May Not Be That High

WASHINGTON, DC — As the federal government prepares to shut down for the first time since 1995/1996, historical Gallup data reveal that the repercussions of that past conflict ranged from none to short-lived, in terms of Americans’ concerns about the U.S. and 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.

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Before the U.S. government shutdown on Nov. 14, 1995, President Clinton’s job approval stood at 52%. It dipped to 42% in an early January Gallup survey, but bounced back up to 52% by mid-March. His favorable rating took even less of a hit, falling just five percentage points to 54% in mid-January 1996 — after the second shutdown ended — from 59% in early November. And, his favorability climbed back up to 58% in mid-March 1996.

Americans’ views of the U.S. speaker of the House at the time, Newt Gingrich, are a bit more complicated. While Gingrich’s job approval suffered some in the short term, 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.

Similarly, Americans’ satisfaction with the way things were going in the United States dropped slightly at the end of the government shutdown, but by March improved to higher than it was before the closure. And, their views of the U.S. economy were mostly stable before, during, and after the 1995/1996 government shutdown.

One thing, though, that is likely to change, at least in the short term, is Americans’ perceptions of the most important problem facing the nation. The budget rose to the top of Americans’ most important problem list in January 1996, overtaking crime, which had been the No. 1 problem throughout 1994 and 1995 and returned to the top of the list by May 1996, after the budget issues subsided.

This article continues at gallup.com 

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