Shutdown watch 2011: Americans see compromise as honorable

Alexis Levinson Political Reporter
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Americans would consider it more honorable for lawmakers to compromise in order to avert a government shutdown than for them to stick to their guns even if it results in a shutdown, according to a poll conducted by Public Opinion Strategies for The Daily Caller.

The poll found the public evenly split on which party they side with on the issue. Forty-seven percent said they sided with Republicans, and the same number said they sided with Democrats and President Obama.

Fifty percent said they thought that “a lawmaker who is willing to compromise on cutting spending in order to keep the federal government from shutting down” was more honorable than one “who is willing to make the tough choices now to cut federal spending, even if it means the federal government might shut down.” Only 43 percent sided with the lawmaker “willing to make the tough choices.”

That’s a pretty slim margin, suggesting a large amount of support for budget cuts – strong support, since those people are willing to have a government shutdown to accomplish the cuts.

But the response might also suggest that the Tea Party members of Congress don’t have as much power as some have suggested.

There are two ways of looking at this. Given the way the question is phrased, respondents are probably going to assume that lawmakers “willing to make the tough choices now to cut federal spending” refers to Republicans, who want to cut more than Democrats. That means that Democrats are those willing to compromise, which would suggest a greater degree of sympathy with Democrats and President Obama than the first question – who do you side with – suggests.

The other possibility is that those two categories call to mind for respondents the Tea Party faction of the Republican Party as those lawmakers willing to embrace a shutdown in favor of cuts, and the rest of the Republicans as those more willing to compromise. That could spell good news for Republicans, as it would suggest that the Tea Party has less leverage than some have suggested.

For both questions, the responses broke down as expected along party lines. But more independents were found to side with Republicans over President Obama and the Democrats – 45 percent to 36 percent. On the other hand, 49 percent of independents said they felt it was more honorable to compromise, while just 36 said it was more honorable to cut federal spending whatever the cost.

The poll sampled voters over the period of April 5 through April 7.