Poll Shows GOP Would Get Blame If Fiscal Cliff Talks Fail

If Republicans are looking for a reason, other than the anticipated economic effects, to avoid letting the nation fall off the fiscal cliff, they need go no further than take a look at the polls:

A new poll finds the public views the looming “fiscal cliff” as a serious crisis for the nation and would blame Republicans more than President Obama if Washington fails to reach a deal.

Forty-five percent surveyed in a new CNN/ORC poll said they would blame congressional Republicans if there is no agreement, with 34 percent pointing the finger at Obama. 

Two-thirds say the U.S. would experience serious problems if the combination of tax rate increases and automatic spending cuts expected in January take effect.

One-in-four say the country would experience a crisis, with 44 percent expecting major problems if a deal to avoid the fiscal cliff is not found. One-in-four say the fiscal cliff would cause minor problems, with 7 percent saying there would not be any consequences.

Seventy-seven percent of Americans believe their personal situation would be affected if the U.S. fell over the cliff.

I suspect that this is part of the reason that we’re seeing so many Republicans begin to distance themselves from the Norquist tax pledge and signal a willingness to make a deal to avoid the fiscal cliff. They realize that they’ll likely come out on the losing end if a deal doesn’t get made. This is one of the reasons that the President is in a superior bargaining position at the moment.

FILED UNDER: Congress, Deficit and Debt, Public Opinion Polls, Taxes, US Politics, , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Dean says:

    I read this to mean leadership on the fiscal crisis is going to have to come from the House Republicans, because President Obama is incapable of leading, according to those polled here.

  2. mantis says:


    Maybe, if you call the first lemming jumping off the cliff “leadership.”

  3. john personna says:

    That’s somewhat interesting, but really it’s a recapitulation of the election.

    That, in a nutshell, is the rationale for the Obama victory.

  4. Rob in CT says:

    The Dems have been arguing for a mixture of tax increases and spending cuts right from the start, and have been able to point at economic success in the 90s and a fairly weak economy in the 2000s (pre-crash) as proof that tax cuts are not, in fact, the solution to every problem (and tax increases are not the end of the world, particularly when tax rates are low and you raise taxes on those who aren’t already struggling to pay the bills). Most people remember the 90s and of course the status quo on income taxes is post-2003 (well, 2001 and 2003). The GOP’s main argument runs smack into the direct experience of the public.

    Since the Dems have repeatedly put their “sacred cows” (Medicare, Social Security) on the table, and the GOP has been frantic to protect theirs (taxes on the well off and to a lesser degree military spending*), it shoudn’t be surprising when the public notices (of course, 34% would blame the Dems anyway, so it’s not like this is universally accepted).

    * – I particularly loved the Linda McMahon ads here in CT lambasting Chris Murphy for voting for defense cuts, by noting that such cuts would cost CT jobs (true, but funny how government spending only seems to create jobs when it’s military spending).

  5. Tsar Nicholas says:

    Poll Shows GOP Would Get Blame If Fiscal Cliff Talks Fail

    Well, duh, obviously. There’s a lot of Republican Derangement Syndrome out there in Zombieland. Let’s not pretend that negative 24/7 mass media coverage and the extreme left-wing tilt of the academe do not affect public perceptions. They do. Hell, at this stage of the game Republicans are to the body politic what a teetotaling, wage-earning father is to a collection of spoiled brat kids and to a social climbing, cheating wife.

    That aside, this whole “fiscal cliff” meme is a giant dog & pony show. Wait until Social Security and Medicare go bust. That’ll make the present kerfuffle look like a sewing circle.

  6. michael reynolds says:

    @Tsar Nicholas:

    From the AARP, which does pay a wee bit of attention to Social Security:

    “The Social Security Trustees reaffirm that the program is financially strong for decades to come and can be strengthened for the future with relatively modest adjustments. With pensions, savings, and home equity down, many older workers unable to find jobs; and health costs continuing their upward climb, Social Security’s guaranteed benefits are more crucial than ever.

    “The Trustees’ report shows that Social Security can pay full benefits for roughly 25 years, and approximately 75 percent of earned benefits beyond that time even if nothing is done.

  7. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Shorter @Tsar Nicholas:

  8. OzarkHillbilly says:

    And no, that was not an accident.

  9. john personna says:


    Hahha. That was my exact thought. I read carefully too.

  10. JKB says:

    Seems to me the win here is to lose. The GOP should fight and fight but in the end agree to tax increases, but real increases not just rate increases. Say a removal of the mortgage interest deduction for high earners, cap on local tax paid deduction, repeal of the Hollywood tax cut, and windfall gains tax of 50 or more percent on earnings over base government pay for the first 5 years after political or SES leave government. I’d even grant a loophole for those leaving when the the Oval Office occupant changes.

    The people want to tax the “rich” and those in Blue states demand it. May their wish be granted.

  11. EddieInCA says:

    Elections have consequences…

    Obama won a 2nd term in a weak economy by pushing two main points:
    1. Keeping Obamacare.
    2. Raising Taxes on the wealthy.

    That’s it.

    And he won.

    The GOP can negotiate in good faith (which their base won’t let them do), or they can try to bluff Obama, who doesn’t have to run for a 2nd term.

    Meep. Meep.

  12. Rob in CT says:

    real increases not just rate increases


    That is as real as removing or capping deductions.

    That said, capping deductions makes sense to me. It strikes me as more politically possible and durable than playing whack-a-mole with each individual deduction.

  13. LaMont says:

    In my personal opinion, I believe deductions should only be “phased out” at higher income levels. “Capping” them, especially at levels that the majority of the middle class takes advantage of, could have a potentially adverse affect sense it is the middle class that does most of the consuming. In other words, it may not be good policy to adversly affect the way the middle clase spend their money in this economy. Deductions are arguably a form of stimulus for many.

  14. As mentioned in an earlier thread, I think they should leave the rates as is, but eliminate the lower rate on Captial Gains. In its place, we can Incentivize investment by making the cost basis of qualifying investments deductible in the year the investment commences rather than in the year it terminates.

  15. legion says:

    @JKB: By all means, encourage your elected representatives to let us DFH’s have our way to show us how “wrong” we are that a progressive tax structure destroys economies. Please.

  16. JKB says:

    Those earning over $250,000/yr are “the rich”. The Obama has decreed it

    I would only add some automatic cuts in the EPA, HUD, etc. if the tax increases fail to generate a net increase in revenue to the Treasury, over some amount. Say if it fails to generate over 50% of the projected revenue being used to sell it to the public.

    Plus some rate cuts aimed at showing they will increase actual revenue providing much needed cash to the Treasury. Of course, at the cost of citizens being better off as well, even those mean old rich citizens.

  17. anjin-san says:

    @ JKB

    Those earning over $250,000/yr are “the rich”. The Obama has decreed it

    So what you are trying to say is you learned nothing from the election, and you have no desire to actually try and solve any of our problems – you just like repeating boilerplate right wing rants.

    Got it.

  18. Rob in CT says:


    Quite right. Phase outs > caps.

  19. An Interested Party says:

    Well, duh, obviously. There’s a lot of Republican Derangement Syndrome out there in Zombieland. Let’s not pretend that negative 24/7 mass media coverage and the extreme left-wing tilt of the academe do not affect public perceptions. They do. Hell, at this stage of the game Republicans are to the body politic what a teetotaling, wage-earning father is to a collection of spoiled brat kids and to a social climbing, cheating wife.

    The Victimhood Tour never ends…I wonder, when there was no “Zombieland” and there was no “extreme left-wing tilt of the academe”, who was responsible for pointing out how radical “conservative” ideas were foolish? Or, perhaps, the conspiracy has been going on forever…

    Wait until Social Security and Medicare go bust.

    This outright lie/scare tactic from someone who tells us that global warming is a hoax…I guess he wouldn’t realize the irony…

    The people want to tax the “rich” and those in Blue states demand it.

    Indeed, someone has to pay for all that money that Red states suck up…of course those in Blue states are trying to be responsible, unless you’re making an argument in favor of massive deficits…

    Those earning over $250,000/yr are “the rich”. The Obama has decreed it

    Oh look, a brave freedom fighter for the downtrodden folks who make over $250,000/yr…if you are so worried about these oppressed souls, perhaps you could start a telethon or take up a collection…

  20. Mikey says:

    Not too surprising, although Patty Murray (D-WA) has pretty openly said she wants to go over the cliff because doing so will give liberal Democrats more leverage to get what they want. So even if the GOP does compromise, it may not be enough.

    Interestingly, if that happens, it could actually benefit those Republicans who signed Grover Norquist’s “pledge” to never raise taxes–because taxes will go up on January 1 without any action on their part, and they can then vote to lower all taxes except those on top earners.

  21. Rob in CT says:


    Several liberal bloggers have suggested that negotiations might work better after Jan 1 for precisely that reason. The tax cuts have the sunset clause in them. Allow expiration, and then do a tax cut on income below $250k of AGI. Presto, no pledge violation (unless Pope Norquist decrees that this is, in fact, a violation).

  22. Rick Almeida says:


    Those earning over $250,000/yr are “the rich”. The Obama has decreed it

    I know you don’t care for facts, but:

    A household earning $250,000 per year earns more than about 96% of US households.

    If I were taller than 96% of the male population (making me about 6’3″), I would be “very tall”.

    “But,” you argue, “In many places, $250,000 doesn’t go too far.”

    Even if that’s true, it’s analogous to arguing that 6’3″ is not very tall in the NBA. It’s true, but it’s an inapt comparison.

    If you earn more than 120,000,000 households, you’re wealthy. Period.

  23. Tillman says:

    I’m not surprised most of the country would hold Congressional Republicans at fault. The polls right after the debt ceiling showdown/credit downgrade said the same thing a year ago:

    Republicans in Congress shoulder more of the blame for the difficulties in reaching a debt-ceiling agreement than President Obama and the Democrats, the poll found.

    The Republicans compromised too little, a majority of those polled said. All told, 72 percent disapproved of the way Republicans in Congress handled the negotiations, while 66 percent disapproved of the way Democrats in Congress handled negotiations.

    The public was more evenly divided about how Mr. Obama handled the debt ceiling negotiations: 47 percent disapproved and 46 percent approved.

    One could say the public held Congress accountable but I find that six percent difference in blame between Republicans and Democrats electorally alarming. It would not be a good idea to repeat the performance.

  24. stonetools says:

    At this point Obama and the Democrats have the handle and the Republicans are holding on to the blade.
    At the time of the debt ceiling negotiations, things were the other way, and Obama offered the Republicans a very generous Grand Bargain, with something like $2.50 in spending cuts for every dollar in revenue. The Tea Party Republicans scuttled that deal.They wanted NO revenue increases and ALL spending cuts. They later campaigned on that position too. Obama and the Democrats campaigned on a balanced approach, and won big.
    The Republicans bet big by being stubborn, and lost. They know it, the Democrats know it, and everyone apart from David Brooks and Bob Woodward knows it too.
    Obama at this point just has to wait, and everything will fall into his lap.

  25. Mikey says:

    @Rob in CT: I’ve also heard it suggested that the fiscal “cliff” is less a cliff than a slope–the bad effects won’t occur all at once but over a period of months, and that would mean time to negotiate before things started getting really bad.

    I don’t believe, personally, that that’s a gamble worth taking, since we don’t really know how quickly things will happen and the last thing we need at this point is another recession. But we may see it anyway.

  26. superdestroyer says:

    This post shows the roll that the Republicans will be filling for the next decade or so until the complete their total collapse. The Republicans will serve as the scapegoat for the Democrats. Anything that is positive will be attributed to the Democratic Party. Anything that goes wrong will be blame on the Republican Party. Of course, this will only last until the Republicans are totally irrelevant but it gives the Democrats a decade or two to train everyone that all good comes from the Democrats.

  27. bill says:

    and the honeymoon enters it’s 5th year- nice.

  28. anjin-san says:

    @ bill

    Yes, people who have sources of information outside of Fox/Rush/Red State still like Obama.

    Deal with it.

  29. Rob in CT says:


    I’m still pretty bearish in the near term. Europe’s a mess. We’re on course for at least limited austerity (which, while it may not be a terrible thing, will put at least a little drag on the economy). Household debt levels are still very high, so there is much more deleveraging to do before consumer demand can really kick in again (at least this should be the case. The alternative is to blow another debt-fueled bubble). Some progress has been made, which is good. But… man, where’s that chart? Google-fu in progress…

    Hmm, I’ll leave my original draft up, but having googled this and seen more recent (September, 2012) charts… actually the deleveraging is farther along than I thought. Which is a reason for some cautious optimism about US consumer demand.


  30. Mikey says:

    @Rob in CT: I’m not optimistic either.

    If Congress fails to get something done by January 1, the markets are absolutely going to shit bricks. And that will happen even if all the other bad effects don’t show up until much later, and it will definitely have a negative impact on the economy as a whole.

    Europe’s a mess, that’s for sure. And I really can’t blame the Germans for not wanting to carry everyone else’s water, or for being angry that the rest of the Eurozone is dragging them under. But I’m not really objective on that whole thing, given my close ties to Germany–my wife was born there, I met her there, her whole family still lives there.

  31. al-Ameda says:

    @Tsar Nicholas:

    Well, duh, obviously. There’s a lot of Republican Derangement Syndrome out there in Zombieland.

    Yes, there are a lot of deranged Republicans.

  32. Ruby says:

    I find it interesting that Mataconis (esp his blog post about how much the Obama White House costs taxpayers), like the press, has studiously ignored what *Congress* costs taxpayers. Try roughy 6 BILLION DOLLARS per year in salaries, healthcare and other benefits, retirement benefits. In 2010 and 2011, the average pay for House and Senate members was $174,000. Leadership positions pay more, naturally: the Speaker of the House and the Senate Majority Leader make more than $210,000/year. That comes to a tally of ~$95.8 million dollars for all 541 members of Congress. JUST IN SALARIES. Name any other ‘entry level job’–since no actual experience is required; you just need to get the most votes–that starts at 170K, you decide your own pay raises, taxpayers pay most of your healthcare premium, and you receive FULL pay and health benefits *for life* as long as you serve at least 5 years. If we want to cut “Entitlements,” why don’t we start with Congress? Why isn’t there even MENTION of congressional cuts? Boehner loves to wax b.s. about “my God we are talking about the country” (in response to reporter questions about Congress not yet being close to an agreement re: the looming fiscal cliff). Why hasn’t he said, “We also need to look seriously at where we can make cuts at the congressional level”?

    That six billion dollar figure does not even take into account what retirement plans and salaries for FORMER members of Congress cost taxpayers: estimated at between $500 million and $1.2 billion. Every. Year. (It also doesn’t take into account “survivor benefits” for the spouses of, say, the late senators Byrd and Kennedy, whose wives not only have continued access to health benefits but also collect between 50 and 75% of their late husbands’ salaries.)

    So the “dinner bill” paid for by taxpayers for a Congress so dysfunctional they make a schizophrenic seem normal by comparison:

    –$500 million-$1.2 billion paid annually to former members of Congress, and their surviving spouses, if they served at least 5 years
    –~$6 billion paid annually to current members of Congress

    If we want to talk Entitlements and necessary cuts? Congress, you go first.