Keeping the Shutdown in Perspective

In official Washington and the nation’s political media world, the partial shutdown of the federal government is a crisis dominating the arrival of a new Congress this week.

That perception is certainly understandable when you consider what a company town Washington, DC has become. Just about everyone in political circles has friends and acquaintances who are directly impacted by the shutdown. On top of that, the local economy clearly suffers when hundreds of thousands of workers are furloughed and have less money to spend at local businesses.

When you look out across the nation, however, an entirely different picture emerges. The shutdown has had a major impact on only 6% of voters. A much larger number—21%–don’t even know there is a government shutdown at the moment.

For voters, there are bigger concerns. A month ago, the Job Creators Network/ Weekly Pulse found that 56% of voters rated the economy as good or excellent. Now, it’s down to 44%. That 12-point decline means that for every person impacted by the shutdown, there are two who have lost confidence in the economy.

Additionally, health care is an issue that has far bigger impacts on a much larger number of people than the shutdown. Thirty-eight percent (38%) of voters have put off a doctor’s visit due to the costs involved (that figure jumps to 47% among those earning less than $75,000 a year). Thirty-five percent (35%) have been unable at some point to schedule a doctor’s appointment when they needed one; 33% have failed to fill a prescription due to cost concerns; and, 26% have been unable to find a doctor covered by their insurance company.

Most depressing of all, if struck with a sudden illness, 19% are not confident that they could quickly get in to see a doctor that they trusted. That’s three times the number impacted by the shutdown. As a result, there is likely to be little lasting impact from this political impasse.

Still, voters want it to end. Like parents dealing with unruly children, voters throughout the country are exasperated that their political leaders can’t resolve their differences through the normal processes of governing. By a 2-to-1 margin, voters say that ending the shutdown is a higher priority than fully funding the border wall. They want their elected politicians to grow up and address real concerns on topics like health care and the economy.

On health care, voters have a pair of top priorities. First, they want Congress to protect those who have pre-existing conditions. Second, they want more choices and control over their own health care decisions. As a starting point, voters want a wider range of health insurance options including lower-cost plans offering more basic coverage.

On the economy, 70% believe that it would be better for our nation to have less government control of the economy. As for specifics, 35% believe that the best thing the federal government could do to help the economy is to cut spending.  Only 4% favor the approach that is most popular in official Washington– increasing government spending and deficits.

The way that the politicians deal with these issues will matter far more than the resolution of the partial government shutdown.

Posted in Scott's Columns

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