Washington More Worried About The Sequester Than The American People
Sean Sullivan and Aaron Blake note that, despite the constant fearmongering that has been coming out of Washington about the sequester, the American people don’t really seem to be all that worried:
In Washington, Republicans and Democrats have been at loggerheads over how best to avert sequestration. In the rest of the country, a remarkably high percentage of Americans take a different view: Bring it on.
Thirty-seven percent of Americans said they would tell their member of Congress to let the deep federal spending cuts known as sequestration go into effect as scheduled, according to a Gallup poll released on Wednesday, while nearly one in five had no opinion. A plurality (45 percent) said they would like to see Congress pass a measure to avert the cuts, but that’s hardly a decisive figure that reflects the alarm bells the Obama administration has been sounding the last couple of weeks.
The public was similarly divided in a Pew Research Center/USA Today poll released last week. Four in 10 Americans said President Obama and Congress should let the cuts go into effect if they cannot reach a deal to avoid them by March 1. Forty-nine percent said the cuts should be delayed.
What gives? For starters, many Americans simply haven’t tuned into the debate over the deep cuts set to hit the federal government on Friday. In the Gallup poll, 38 percent said they were not following the story too closely or at all closely. An even higher percentage of Americans — 48 percent — said the same thing in a Washington Post-Pew poll released earlier this week. It’s hard to strongly oppose cuts you don’t really know that much about.
In an effort to ratchet up pressure on congressional Republicans to agree to Democratic calls for a mixture of new tax revenue and alternate spending cuts as a means of avoiding the sequester, the Obama administration has launched a full-scale effort to warn the public of the dire consequences of inaction. The more Americans know about sequestration, the thinking goes, the greater pressure they will exert on their representative to act to avert it.
The Gallup poll backs this notion up. Among those following the issue very or somewhat closely, 50 percent want to see it averted. Among those following it less closely, that number drops to 39 percent. (Of course, this could be a self-selecting sample; if you think the cuts are going to be bad, you are more likely to pay close attention.)
The reality is that, with just a day left until the cuts begin kicking in, that message that the sequester is a true emergency simply hasn’t sunk in for most Americans. Further complicating the administration’s pitch is that fact that the cuts affect different communities in strikingly different ways. What is dire in some places is a non-issue in others.
Of course, it’s possible that public opinion will change after the cuts kick in and that the Republicans will begin to feel pressure to undue the cuts and replace them with something else. However, for that to happen it would have to be the case that the cuts will indeed be as bad as the White House has been saying. As I’ve noted previously, there’s plenty of reason to believe that this will not be the case. If that happens, then the pressure on the GOP to revisit the cuts will be much less, and we just may find that these sequester cuts will be far more permanent than people in Washington seem to think they will be.