GOP In Danger Of Losing The P.R. War Over Debt, Spending, And Taxes?
If you look at the polls, the GOP has several things to be concerned about in the debate over the debt ceiling.
As the negotiations between the White House and Republicans become more tense, there’s at least some indication that the GOP is risking a voter backlash if the parties are unable to reach a deal to increase the debt ceiling before the Treasury Department’s August 2nd deadline:
A majority of U.S. voters give a thumbs down to President Barack Obama’s handling of the economy, but they trust him more than congressional Republicans to get the country back on track — and favor his approach to trimming the nation’s debt, a poll out Thursday finds.
Fifty-six percent of voters say in the new Quinnipiac University poll that they disapprove of how the president is handling the economy, while 38 percent approve.
Even so, 45 percent trust the president more than Republicans on the economy, while 38 percent trust the Republicans more.
As negotiations to raise the debt ceiling have intensified and the president has taken on a larger role in fighting for them in public and in private, Obama’s approval rating has stayed unchanged from Quinnipiac’s last poll a month ago with 47 percent of voters approving of his job performance and 46 percent disapproving.
If there’s no deal to raise the debt ceiling, the poll finds, voters would blame congressional Republicans over the president, 48 percent to 34 percent.
Survey participants also would prefer to see two measures that Obama has pushed: tax hikes for the rich and closing loopholes.
Sixty-seven percent say an agreement to raise the debt ceiling should include not just spending cuts but tax increases for the rich and corporations, while 25 percent disagree. And 45 percent say that the president’s efforts to raise revenues look more like “closing loopholes” than “tax hikes.” Even so, 57 percent of those surveyed say they think the tax changes would hurt the middle class and not just the rich.
In addition to this poll from Quinnipiac, there’s also a new Gallup Poll which James Joyner touched on earlier today that showed that the vast majority of Americans favored a resolution to the debt crisis that included a combination of tax increases and spending cuts. As this chart that Bruce Bartlett put together shows, that Gallup poll is far from an anomaly:
On the other side of the debate, there’s a newly released Rasmussen poll that purports to show that 55% of Likely Voters oppose raising taxes as part of a deal to raise the debt ceiling. Along with the usual caveats about Rasmussen polling that has come to light after the 2010 elections, though, it’s worth noting the question that they asked:
As part of legislation to raise the debt ceiling, should congress and the president raise taxes?
They’re asking the respondent, do you favor raising the debt ceiling and raising taxes? There’s no mention of the choices given respondents in other polls about a mixture of tax increases and spending cuts. So, I’m not sure that this number really does anything to undercut the Gallup numbers, or the results from the other polls.
So, things would seem to look good for the GOP and bad for Democrats, right? As Dave Weigel notes, that’s not necessarily the case at all:
Here’s the beautiful trap that Democrats find themselves in. As it was in 2001, as it was at the end of 2010, higher tax rates on the rich and fewer loopholes for the advantaged (as opposed to tax giveaways for lower-income voters) are very popular. But the opposition party is resolutely against any tax cuts, ever. That doesn’t just make it politically difficult to raise taxes. It shifts the reality in D.C. and the punditocracy. In polls, the Bernie Sanders position of a deal that’s 50 percent tax hikes and 50 percent cuts is the most popular option — 32 percent support in Gallup. In Washington, it’s what the crazy socialist thinks — the rest of us agree that you can’t raise taxes.
This is ultimately the reason that President Obama ended up essentially giving the GOP everything they wanted on the extension of the Bush tax cuts at the end of 2010. Despite the fact that there was more than enough polling that demonstrated clearly that the public supported, and still supports, the Democratic position that the tax cuts for people earning more than $250,000 per year should be allowed to lapse (a number that goes even higher when the income level is $1,000,000/year or above). the President caved. He caved because, even in the 111th Congress, the structure of the system favored the GOP, and because the GOP was unwilling to blink. That’s what seems to be happening this time around.
It’s got to be frustrating for Democrats. The polls say the public supports them on this issue, and yet they keep losing the political battles and they haven’t been able to turn the popular support for tax hikes on the rich into success at the ballot box. Depending on how this deal works itself out, one wonders if it will even be in the public consciousness when Election Day rolls around in November 2012. As we’ve stated numerous times here, the main issue in 2012 is going to be the state of the economy and whether the public thinks Barack Obama deserves a second term. Unless one side or the other manages to do something horribly stupid that results in the debt ceiling not being raised in time, the exact details of whatever deal gets worked out over the next several weeks isn’t likely to play that big of a role in the election, especially since the GOP Presidential candidates are largely staying out of the debate over the debt ceiling.
So, yes, if you look at the numbers the GOP has something to be concerned about. Based on how these things have worked out in the past, though, I’m not sure they’re going to pay much of a press for bucking public opinion on these issues.