CNN poll: In debt limit debate, Obama has the public on his side

Alexis Levinson Political Reporter
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In the standoff over the debt ceiling, President Obama has the American public on his side, according to a CNN poll released Thursday.

In the negotiations, Obama is seen as the more responsible party, with 52 percent saying he has behaved responsibly in the talks on the debt ceiling and 46 percent saying he has not. The public holds the opposite perception of Republicans in Congress, with 63 percent saying that they have not behaved in a responsible manner in these discussions.

Republicans would also bear the brunt of the blame if the debt ceiling is not raised according to the poll, an outcome that worries Americans both nationally and on a personal level.

A plurality of poll respondents — 43 percent — said that not raising the debt ceiling would cause ‘major problems’ for the country. 27 percent felt it would affect their personal finances ‘a great deal’ and 37 percent said it would have at least ‘some’ effect.

According to the poll, a 66 percent majority of Americans favor a deal in which “Congress would raise the debt ceiling while cutting between two trillion and four trillion dollars in government spending over the next ten years and raising taxes on some businesses and higher-income Americans.”

Specifically, more than 70 percent of Americans favor a plan that raises taxes on “those who make more than $250 thousand a year,” businesses that own private jets, oil and gas companies – as well as ending the federal subsidies that those businesses receive.

Spending cuts, however, get minimal support. Just 12 percent say they would support cutting the amount spent on Medicare, and only 22 percent would support cuts to Medicaid. Cutting federal subsidies to farmers or benefits for retired government workers get support from just 31 percent and 30 percent of Americans, respectively. Cutting defense spending would seem to be the most acceptable of the cuts, with 47 percent saying they would favor such a measure.

By contrast, the McConnell plan, which would allow Obama to raise the debt ceiling “several times in the next 18 months while cutting a smaller amount in government spending and not raising taxes at all,” gets minimal support from just 34 percent of the public. The plan gets even less support from Republicans than Democrats, with just 28 percent of Republicans supporting it and 40 percent of Democrats.

But Americans do like the idea of a balanced budget amendment, something that some House Republicans have been pushing. 66 percent favor the idea, while just 33 percent of Americans oppose it. The balanced budget amendment has cross-party support, with a majority of Democrats supporting it as well as a majority of Republicans.

The poll results aren’t as bad as they might look for Republicans, contends one GOP official. (ForAmerica’s Bozell: Republicans who support Gang of Six proposal ‘will walk the plank’)

“Washington may think President Obama is winning the debt ceiling debate but the American people don’t seem so sure. In poll after poll, Americans disapprove of the job President Obama is doing and his failed economic leadership. In state after state, Obama is falling behind to Republican candidates. President Obama is leading America in the wrong direction and the polls confirm that,” the official said.

Gallup currently finds Obama with 43 percent approval rating and 49 percent disapproval, and a Public Policy Polling poll released on Wednesday found him getting a low level of support from independent voters. Nonetheless, Obama continues to beat Republican presidential contenders in most polls, including the Washington Post/ABC poll released on Thursday.

The CNN poll interviewed 1,009 Americans of voting age using landlines and cell phones over the period between July 18 and July 20. The margin of error for the poll is plus or minus three percentage points.