January 21, 2018


The Government Shutdown Effect: Big In The Short Term, Small After That (Harry Enten, 1/20/18, 538)

[P]rior shutdowns haven't had long-term electoral implications. Republicans recovered on the generic ballot by February 1996, just a month after the final shutdown of that period ended. And in the elections later that year, they held onto their majorities in both the House and Senate. Clinton, meanwhile, recovered his lost support by March 1996. He would go on to easily win reelection later in 1996.

Basically, America put the same people who shut the government down back in office.

The 2013 shutdown tells the same story. Despite losing the blame game, Republicans jumped to a lead on the generic ballot by late November 2013 -- their first of the year. In the 2014 midterms, they expanded their majority in the House and won back the Senate. Meanwhile, Obama continued a long-term decline in his approval ratings in the months following the 2013 shutdown, but recovered to his pre-shutdown approval level by April 2014.

Obviously, we're dealing with a very small sample size in terms of historical examples. We don't have a ton of polling with which to examine the political effects of prior shutdowns. So, perhaps this shutdown will prove different. Americans list dissatisfaction with government as the most important problem facing the country. In such an environment, the government shutdown could, for example, be held up by Democrats during the midterm campaign as the ultimate demonstration of the inability of Republicans to get things done on an issue (DACA) that most Americans support.

But your safest bet right now -- at least until we get more polling as this story unfolds (or ends) -- is that the long-term electoral effects of the shutdown will be minimal.

Democrats have nothing to lose from the shutdown and important relief for immigrants to gain.

Posted by at January 21, 2018 10:12 AM