THE HILL POLL: Neither party stands tall in voters' assessment

A pox on both your houses.

That was the message from voters to Democrats and Republicans late last week, even as the two sides strained to make a deal to raise the debt ceiling and trim the nation’s deficits.

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The latest opinion poll conducted for The Hill indicated that a majority of voters believe both parties are motivated more by their search for partisan advantage than a desire to enact good policy.

Asked whether President Obama’s party was fighting more for a political boost or for what it truly believes is wise policy, 51 percent of voters selected the former option and 36 percent the latter, a negative margin of 15 points.

In the case of the GOP, the difference was 19 points, with just 36 percent saying the party was motivated by genuine policy concerns and 55 percent saying their animating force was the pursuit of political advantage.

A similar pattern was seen regarding culpability for Washington’s toxic political atmosphere. Forty-four percent of voters said Republicans were more to blame for hostile partisan rhetoric in the nation’s capital, while 41 percent said the responsibility lay mainly with Obama and the Democrats.

The three-point difference is within the poll’s margin of error, and the closeness of the margin suggests that Obama is seen as having come up short on his famous 2008 campaign pledge to change the way business is done in Washington.

Voters took a negative view of the broader question of Obama’s performance in fulfilling his promises, too. Here, however, the White House can take at least tepid comfort from the fact that the Republicans did not fare much better, and by some measures performed worse.

Sixty-one percent say Obama has done a fair or poor job of keeping his campaign promises, but even more — 71 percent — offer the same verdict on the GOP.

While 40 percent of voters believe Obama has done a poor job, 30 percent feel the same way about Republicans.

Thirty-eight percent of voters characterize Obama’s performance in keeping his campaign promises as excellent or good, against only 25 percent who say the same thing about Republicans.

Drilling deeper down into The Hill poll reveals additional grounds for concern for Republican leaders.

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Some in the leadership are already worried about their restive base as they try to negotiate a deal on the debt ceiling, fearing that any agreement viewed as either raising taxes or being insufficiently muscular in spending cuts will be attacked by Tea Party supporters. At the same time, a failure to make a deal could see the party blamed for any subsequent downward lurch in the already-struggling economy.

Support for Obama remained relatively solid among his base, while there was much more evidence of slippage for Republicans, the poll found. At the same time, the GOP was also judged more harshly by centrist voters.

Whereas 70 percent of self-identified Democrats asserted that Obama had done a good or excellent job in keeping his campaign promises, only 40 percent of Republicans believed the same about their party. Forty-five percent of self-described moderate voters gave Obama the thumbs-up on keeping his promises. Only 20 percent of those voters felt the same way about the GOP.

The Hill poll of 1,000 likely voters was conducted by Pulse Opinion Research on July 7. It has a margin of error of 3 percentage points.