Thursday, July 14, 2011

Are voters really that dumb, or is it spin?


Lawmakers snipe, Wall St. frets as deadline nears
[...] Despite McConnell's assertions that the debt problem belongs to Obama, fresh polling from Quinnipiac University suggested voters would be more apt to hold Republicans responsible than Obama, by 48 percent to 34 percent, if the debt limit is not raised. The same survey showed voters were about evenly split on whether they're more concerned about raising the limit and increasing government debt, or seeing the government go into default and damaging the economy.

"The American people aren't very happy about their leaders, but President Barack Obama is viewed as the best of the worst, especially when it comes to the economy," said Peter Brown, assistant director of Quinnipiac's Polling Institute.

That helps explain why McConnell put forward a plan that would give Obama new powers to overcome Republican opposition to raising the debt ceiling.

The proposal would place the burden on Obama to win debt ceiling increases up to three times, provided he was able to override congressional vetoes — a threshold Obama could manage to overcome even without a single Republican vote and without massive spending cuts. Conservatives promptly criticized the plan for giving up the leverage to reduce deficits. But the plan raised the prospect of combining it with some of the spending cuts already identified by the White House in order to win support from conservatives in the House.

In an interview with radio talk-show host Laura Ingraham, McConnell described his plan in stark political terms, warning fellow conservatives that failure to raise the debt limit would probably ensure Obama's re-election in 2012. He predicted that a default would allow Obama to argue that Republicans were making the economy worse.

"You know, it's an argument he has a good chance of winning, and all of a sudden we (Republicans) have co-ownership of a bad economy," McConnell said. "That's a very bad positioning going into an election." [...]

What the hell is "Quinnipiac's Polling Institute"? Never heard of them. Just some university poll being used for White House spin? Gallop polls are more widely recognized, see what they say:

U.S. Debt Ceiling Increase Remains Unpopular With Americans
More are concerned about higher level of spending than risk of economic crisis
PRINCETON, NJ -- Despite agreement among leaders of both sides of the political aisle in Washington that raising the U.S. debt ceiling is necessary, more Americans want their member of Congress to vote against such a bill than for it, 42% vs. 22%, while one-third are unsure. This 20-percentage-point edge in opposition to raising the debt ceiling in Gallup's July 7-10 poll is slightly less than the 28-point lead (47% vs. 19%) seen in May. [...]

Sounds more believable to me. But a whopping 1/3 "unsure"? That's scary.

Even with 42% of voters against raising the debt ceiling, the Republicans will still allow Obama to do it, IF he also agrees to significant spending cuts. But he just can't (or won't) do it.

The press frequently called Bush "divisive", even as he frequently gave in to Democrats. But this president gives in to nothing, demonstrates no flexibility, and somehow, he's supposed to be a "uniter"? I'm not seeing it. And that's too bad, because a uniter is what we desperately need.

Gallup also said this:

On Deficit, Americans Prefer Spending Cuts; Open to Tax Hikes
PRINCETON, NJ -- Americans' preferences for deficit reduction clearly favor spending cuts to tax increases, but most Americans favor a mix of the two approaches. Twenty percent favor an approach that relies only on spending cuts and 4% favor an approach that uses tax increases alone.


Responses on both sides to a large degree reflect the arguments political leaders are making. Two of the most common, and arguably the dominant themes of the open-ended responses, are concerns about the effect that not raising the debt limit will have on the economy versus concerns that raising it will not sufficiently address government spending. In the same poll, Gallup asked Americans which of these two risks concerned them more, and the public expressed greater concern about raising the debt ceiling without a plan for major cuts in future government spending (51%) than about the potential harm to the economy if the debt ceiling is not raised (32%).


Government spending seems to be the primary worry for Americans when their opinions are probed about raising the debt limit. Government leaders appear to be listening, as party leaders are proposing major cuts in future government spending as a way to persuade members of Congress to vote for an increase in the nation's debt limit. In terms of deficit reduction, Americans seem to generally back an approach that relies more on spending cuts than tax increases. A key question to be answered in the days ahead is whether an agreement to raise the debt ceiling will include any tax increases. This is something many Republican members of Congress oppose, but most Americans do not seem to share this view. [...]

Large cuts in spending, along with some tax increases, would be a compromise that most Americans would accept. A true compromise would have to encompass both. The Republicans won't be able to budge from their position, unless Obama agrees to huge spending cuts. The President needs to take the lead in getting us there, but I doubt that he has what it takes.

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