MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
So as we've heard, today, President Obama met with Senate Democrats, then he met with House Republicans. And right now, White House staff members are meeting with their counterparts from the House GOP leadership. That's a lot of talking, where just yesterday there was radio silence between the parties.
NPR's Mara Liasson joins us now to talk about what's changed. Hi, Mara.
MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Hi, Melissa.
BLOCK: And one thing that has changed, which I mentioned earlier with Tamara Keith, is a new NBC-Wall Street Journal poll out today which shows the public overwhelmingly blaming the GOP, much more than the Democrats or the president, for what's going on.
LIASSON: That's right. It's by a 22-point margin, 53 percent of the public blames the Republican Party for the shutdown, 31 percent blames the president. That's a very wide margin. And one of the things that we've been watching throughout this whole standoff is when public opinion would reach a tipping point where it would really matter.
And one of the important features of modern politics is that most of the Republicans in the House of Representatives are insulated from national public opinion because their districts are so safe and they don't have to worry about a general election challenge. They just have to worry about a primary challenge from the right.
But this is the kind of poll that really could change that. Just one other thing in the poll, 24 percent of people have a favorable opinion of the Republican Party. That is the all-time low in the history of the Wall Street Journal poll.
BLOCK: Yeah, going back, I think, to 1989. I'm struck by the comment from the Republican pollster who carried out the poll, Bill McInturff. He calls this data toxic for the Republican Party.
LIASSON: Yes. This really is toxic and it has a ripple effect. And this often happens in polls, all of a sudden Obamacare is a little bit more popular; still under water but not by as much. And all of a sudden on the basic threshold question, do you think the government should do more to solve problems or less? Used to be split right down the middle, in June, 48 percent to 48 percent. Now, it's tilted to the Democrats' argument, 52 percent to 44 percent, people think the government should do more.
So this is what Bill McInturff also called an ideological boomerang. It's a break against the Republican position.
BLOCK: If you were to compare these numbers, Mara, with the polls that were conducted during the last government shutdown in '95 and '96, what would the comparison look like?
LIASSON: Well, they're worse right now. One of the things that we've been noticing is that up until now, they haven't been as bad as the polls were in the last shutdown. In other words, they haven't been as bad for Republicans. And that was one of the reasons why you were seeing the standoff go on and on and on. But now, it has surpassed the drubbing that the Republicans took in the polls back in that previous shutdown.
The poll also showed, this is an amazing number, 70 percent of people say congressional Republicans are putting politics first. The president comes out in this poll in pretty good shape. He's ticked down a little bit, but the only thing - the only warning this poll has for the president is by 43 to 40 percent, they do think that he should negotiate with the Republicans. And you know what, he's talking to them now. So I think he's satisfying the public's demand for at least conversations between the two parties.
BLOCK: Mara, here's one of those sort of, you know, pox on both their houses numbers in this poll. Six in ten Americans say if they could, they would defeat and replace every single member of Congress.
LIASSON: Yes. But that's not the same thing as saying, would you vote against your member of Congress...
BLOCK: Yeah, right.
LIASSON: ...and naming him. I mean, it really is different. But I think this could be a political tipping point. There was a reason why even though Wall Street was not squawking at all, as a matter of fact, as soon as they heard John Boehner say don't worry there won't be a default, Wall Street was very happy. So no pressure coming there. Certainly no pressure from conservative constituents at home. But this is the kind of thing that would get Republicans suing for peace.
BLOCK: OK. NPR national political correspondent Mara Liassson. Mara, thanks so much.
LIASSON: Thank you.
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