Republicans and Democrats agree: The threat of a government shutdown is bad news
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Republicans and Democrats agree: The threat of a government shutdown is bad news

September 25, 2023 | Updated on January 8, 2024

The heated political debates around key funding bills needed to prevent a government shutdown are having an unintended consequence. While Democrats, Republicans and independents tend not to agree on much these days, there is a widespread consensus that the threat of a shutdown is a negative development.

A recent online survey by the Partnership for Public Service shows that 68% of all respondents said the threat of a showdown was decreasing their trust in the federal government, while only 18% said it was increasing their trust and 14% said they were unsure. This level of skepticism is consistent across the political spectrum, with 71% of Democrats, 67% of Republicans and 66% of independents saying the threat lowers their trust.

These results come from an online survey of 1,000 U.S. adults conducted by the Partnership from Sept. 6-12, 2023, using an online panel provided by Pollfish and Prodege. While the survey is not a random, nationally representative sample of people’s views, we used sampling techniques to resemble the demographic makeup of the U.S. and approximate public opinion in the country. 

The U.S. is already experiencing a crisis of public trust in government. A previous nationally representative survey conducted by the Partnership in late 2022 showed that only 35% of the public trusted the federal government compared with 46% who did not. This lack of trust has implications for the ability of federal agencies to address major challenges facing the country and for how the public interacts with the government. Unfortunately, the possibility of a shutdown widens this trust gap.

The impact of a potential shutdown

While our latest online poll showed that 74% of Democrats were concerned about a government shutdown compared with just 46% of Republicans and 52% of independents, respondents generally agreed that a shutdown would affect them personally.

More than half, or 54%, said there would be a personal impact while 35% disagreed and 11% were unsure. While 65% of Democrats agreed, many Republicans and independents felt similarly. In fact, the same percentage of Republicans, 46%, said a shutdown would affect their personal lives as those who said it would not.

A government shutdown would have many negative consequences. It would damage the economy, detract from the core work of federal agencies and decrease the government’s ability to ensure public safety.

However, it would also damage the already low levels of trust the public has in the federal government. Congress should pass the necessary appropriation bills needed to prevent a shutdown or agree to a continuing resolution—not only so the government can continue operating—but also to demonstrate the commitment of federal leaders to work on the public’s behalf.

Join us for our “2023 Trust Summit: A Government of the People” on Sept. 27 to continue the conversation about rebuilding trust in our government and visit to learn more about the Partnership’s work on this critical issue.  

Read the recent op-ed from Partnership President and CEO Max Stier on why shutdowns harm the public and what Congress can do to stop them.

For more information and resources on a potential government shutdown, visit our website.

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