Study: Standoff in Congress Extends to Local Politics

Thursday, 15 Sep 2011 06:53 AM

By Greg McDonald

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A new study focusing on local American politics illustrates how hard it will be for President Barack Obama and Republican lawmakers to reach a deal on a new jobs program, much less a 10-year plan to reduce the deficit by $1.2 trillion.

In a survey of 500 local Republican and Democratic Party officials nationwide, the Center for Political Participation at Allegheny College (PPC) found that 78 percent of GOP leaders believe their lawmakers on Capital Hill should stand firm on their principles and avoid compromise.

On the other side, 88 percent of Democratic leaders surveyed said elected officials should seek compromise whenever possible.

That stark difference of view among local and state party chairs was surprising to CPP Director Daniel M. Shea, who was also lead author of the study.

There are always modest partisan differences when you talk to local party leaders,” Shea said. “Yet this disparity is stunning. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Shea said the survey results indicate the difficulty ahead for future budget negotiations.

“It is hard to imagine middle-of-the-road solutions springing from Congress when 8 out of 10 local GOP party leaders expect their elected officials to stand firm,” he said. “And you can bet all members of Congress pay close attention to these party chairs, given the next primary election is always just around the corner.”

Given the differences expressed about compromise, it was no surprise 73 percent of the local leaders said politics “has become less civil in the past few years.” Sixty-eight percent also expressed concern that “nasty politics is harmful to our democracy.”

Nonetheless, 90 percent of the party officials agreed that aggressive but respectful politics “is still possible.”

The study noted some other areas of agreement as well, but those tended to center on party activities — rather than issues — aimed at getting their candidates elected.

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