Published July 20, 2011
Most American voters oppose raising the national debt limit, and think talk of missed Social Security checks is just a scare tactic. Voters are optimistic that a debt deal will be made soon, and if it isn’t they will blame both Republicans and Democrats.
These are just some of the findings from a Fox News poll released Wednesday.
Voters were asked to imagine being a lawmaker in Congress who had to cast an up-or-down vote on raising the debt ceiling. The poll found 35 percent would vote in favor of increasing the limit, while 60 percent would vote against it.
Most Tea Partiers (81 percent), Republicans (76 percent) and independents (63 percent) would vote against raising the limit. Views among Democrats are more evenly divided: 50 percent would raise it and 44 percent wouldn’t.
Even though a majority opposes raising the debt limit, more voters think it would be worse for the country if leaders fail to raise the limit and don’t pay some of the country’s bills (50 percent) than to raise the limit and borrow more money (40 percent).
When given more specific options, voters still prefer not to raise the debt ceiling, yet they are twice as likely to back a plan that includes both spending cuts and tax increases than one with just cuts.
Thirty-five percent would support raising the limit if it is accompanied by a mix of both spending cuts and taxes increases, compared to 17 percent who would increase it if accompanied by cuts but no tax increases. The largest number though -- 42 percent -- still says the limit should not be raised at all.
A 63-percent majority of voters thinks raising taxes during an economic downturn is a bad idea. That’s down from a high of 80 percent who thought so two years ago (August 2009).
Meanwhile, 42 percent of voters think getting rid of tax deductions is the same as raising taxes; 47 percent disagree.
Nearly three-quarters of voters favor the idea of a three percent across-the-board cut to all government departments and spending to reduce the budget deficit immediately.
As might be expected, voters doubt some of the current talking points being used in the debt ceiling debate. For example, over half of voters think those who predict a financial catastrophe if the limit isn’t raised are exaggerating (55 percent), and most think those who suggest Social Security checks might not be sent are just trying to scare people (63 percent).
About 6 in 10 disagree with Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell’s suggestion that a solution is “unattainable” with Obama in the Oval Office. That includes not only almost all Democrats, but also two-thirds of independents (65 percent) and nearly a third of Republicans (30 percent).
There’s a widely held perception among voters that leaders will work out a debt deal (62 percent).
If they fail to do so, by a 47-32 percent margin more voters will blame congressional Republicans than President Obama.
And even though there’s more skepticism over how Republican leaders are behaving during this process, neither side escapes unscathed: 63 percent think congressional Republicans are using the economic crisis for political gain, and 49 percent think congressional Democrats and the president are doing the same.
On the whole, the word that best describes how voters feel about the deficit situation is “concern” (40 percent), followed by “anger” (23 percent), “embarrassment” (13 percent), “indifference” (10 percent), “despair” (5 percent) and “shock” (4 percent).
Democrats are more likely than others to say “concern,” while Republicans and independents are twice as likely as Democrats to say “anger.” Moreover, Tea Partiers are three times as likely as Democrats to feel “anger” over the current deficit.
Pray or Play
The country needs solutions.& What will help? Three times as many voters think it would help if debt negotiators prayed together (57 percent) than if they played golf together (18 percent). Four percent say both would help, and 15 percent says neither praying nor playing would make a difference.
The Fox News poll is based on landline and cell phone interviews with 904 randomly chosen registered voters nationwide and was conducted under the joint direction of Anderson Robbins Research (D) and Shaw Company Research (R) from July 17 to July 19. For the total sample, it has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.