Public Supports Budget Deal, But Not Much Else

Two new polls show that the public supports the budget deal, but has no idea what to do to solve our long term problems.

Two new poll show that the public is generally supportive of the deal that Democrats and Republicans reached at the end of last week to avert a government shutdown, suggesting that partisans on both sides hoping to score points over it are barking up the wrong tree.

CNN was the first to poll about the budget deal over the weekend and they found that the Democrats are given more credit than the GOP, but only by a slight margin:

Who won last week’s showdown over the federal budget and the government shutdown-that-wasn’t?

It looks like the public gives the Democrats more credit for the deal than the Republicans, but it’s nothing like the slam-dunk that Bill Clinton scored during the 1995 government shutdown, and it certainly has not been reflected in President Barack Obama’s overall approval rating, according to a new national poll.

A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Monday indicates that the budget agreement that prevented a government shutdown is popular, with Americans supporting it by a 58 to 38 percent margin. But there’s a partisan divide, with two-thirds of Democrats and a majority of independent voters backing the deal, and Republicans divided.

By a 48 to 35 percent margin, the public thinks Democrats are more responsible than the GOP for the late Friday night agreement, which prevented a shutdown of some government services and offices. And according to the survey, which was conducted Saturday and Sunday, 54 percent say they approve of how the president handled the budget negotiations, compared to only 44 percent who approve of how the Republican leaders in Congress handled themselves last week.

But this doesn’t mean Obama gets a political boost from the deal.

“The president’s overall approval rating is now 48 percent; in late March, that figure was 51 percent. This is the first time this year that a CNN poll has found his overall approval rating below 50 percent,” says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. “And although President Obama has a ten-point advantage over the GOP leaders on how their handling of the budget negotiations, that’s nothing compared to the 30-point advantage President Bill Clinton had over House Speaker Newt Gingrich after the budget showdown in November, 1995.”

Back then, 49 percent approved of how Clinton handled those negotiations; only 19 percent approved of how Gingrich handled the deal making.

This results are mirrored, for the most part, in a new Gallup poll that shows the same majority support for the deal, but no real credit for either side:

PRINCETON, NJ — Six in 10 Americans approve of the 11th-hour federal budget agreement that congressional leaders reached in time to avert a government shutdown. Support for the deal made on Friday is somewhat higher among Democrats than among independents and Republicans, 71% vs. 60% and 58%, respectively.

Few Americans see a political winner in the outcome — with 5% saying it was a victory specifically for the Democrats, 8% specifically for the Republicans, and 20% for both. Rather, the majority of Americans, 56%, say the long-negotiated compromise was not a victory for either side.

Republicans are more likely than Democrats to believe their own party was victorious — 16% vs. 6% — however, the majority of both groups believe neither side won.

That last part, of course, is the nature of settlement. I noted several times over the weekend a piece of advice that a judge had once passed along to me, that a good settlement is one where both sides walk away feeling like they didn’t get everything they wanted. It’s also the nature of politics in a representative democracy. Unless one side or the other has a supermajority, which has only happened rarely in American politics, compromise of some kind is going to be necessary.The problem isn’t with the compromise so much as it’s with the extremists on both sides who seem to think, unrealistically, that they can get everything they want without having to worry about the other side. As we learned last week, that just isn’t possible.,

Gallup also polled respondents on what they would support to address the budget problems in the future, a subject that President Obama will address later today. Those results are predictable, although not very helpful in reaching a long term solution to our problem. For example, 59% of respondents support raising taxes on those earning $250,000/year or more, 37% oppose such tax cuts. Additionally, respondents were essentially equally divided on cuts to domestic spending, but the partisan divide there is rather stark:

Finally, the public continues to be adverse to any changes in Medicare:

This creates exactly the kind of political environment that encourages politicians to obfuscate on these issues rather than get anything of substances done. Today, the President will get a chance to have his say on the way forward. He will either have a real plan, or he’ll follow the lead of previous politicians and give us meaningless platitudes. If he has any courage, he’ll go with the first option.


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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. Why not just conduct a public poll on applying unicorn horns or pixie dust to fix the budget? It would be about as meaningful.

  2. Captain Fantastic says:

    You can’t fix budgets with pixie dust. It only works on global unrest! Don’t you know anything? Is it any wonder we have problems in this country.

  3. I really enjoy how putting the equivalent of dog turds into a well formatted graph is supposed to reveal their hidden value.

  4. An Interested Party says:

    Why not just conduct a public poll on applying unicorn horns or pixie dust to fix the budget? It would be about as meaningful.

    About as meaningful as the idea that spending cuts alone, without tax increases, will balance the budget…I mean, that idea might fly in Ayn Rand Land, but back here in the real world, not so much…