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The Debt Ceiling Debate Continues July 15-17, 2011 • Americans are now divided on whether the debt ceiling should be raised; 46% think it should be, while 49% think it should not. But three in four Americans would prefer to see an agreement they do not fully support than for the U.S. to go into default (14%). At the same time, there is some skepticism about what would happen if the debt ceiling is not raised – 51% think the U.S. would probably not default on its debts. However, there is growing concern about what would happen to the U.S. economy and the stock market -- nearly half now thinks a severe downturn would be very likely. 43% approve of how President Barack Obama is handling the debt ceiling talks, but just 31% approve of the Democrats in Congress and only 21% approve of how the Republicans in Congress are handling the negotiations. 60% see the President as really trying to come up with an agreement; just 32% say the same for Republicans in Congress. Majorities think the President and Congressional Republicans and Democrats should compromise their positions to get something accomplished. 66% think an agreement should include both spending cuts and tax increases.
What To Do Support for raising the debt ceiling has increased 22 points since last month, and Americans are now more closely divided on the issue. 46% now say the debt ceiling should be raised because otherwise the country could default on its loans, causing severe problems for the U.S. economy. Last month, only 24% favored increasing the debt ceiling. 49% say it should not be raised (down from 69% in June) because the country owes too much money already, and raising it will cause long term consequences. Should the Debt Ceiling be Raised? All 6/2011 Yes 46% 24% No 49 69 The more Americans are following the issue, the more they are in support of raising the debt ceiling. A slight majority (51%) of those following the debt ceiling debate very closely think the debt ceiling should be raised, compared to just 29% of those not following the issue closely.
A majority of Democrats (61%) now supports raising the debt limit, a reversal from last month when most (54%) opposed it. Republicans and independents continue to be against raising the debt ceiling, but more favor raising it now than did in June. Tea Party supporters are especially likely to be against an increase in the debt limit – three in four say they are. Should the Debt Ceiling be Raised? Democrats Independents Now 6/2011 Now 6/2011 61% 35% 40% 21% 31 54 55 72
Republicans Now 6/2011 33% 16% 64 81
Tea Party Now 6/2011 23% 16% 73 83
Most Americans (66%) think any agreement on the budget and debt ceiling should include a combination of both spending cuts and tax increases. Just 28% think an agreement should include only spending cuts and even fewer – just 3% - say it should solely include tax increases. Majorities across the political spectrum want to see a debt ceiling agreement that contains both spending cuts and tax increases, but Republicans and Tea party supporters are more likely than Democrats and independents to want an agreement that includes just spending cuts. Agreement on the Debt Ceiling Should Include… All Reps Dems Inds Tea Party Only tax increases 3% 1% 7% 1% 0% Only spending cuts 28 39 20 28 44 Both spending cuts and tax increases 66 55 71 68 53 In the end, Americans overwhelmingly prefer an agreement on the debt ceiling they don’t fully support (76%) rather than no agreement that would cause the U.S. to default on its debts (14%). Which Would Be More Acceptable on the Debt Ceiling? All Reps Dems Inds Tea Party An agreement I don’t fully support 76% 78% 80% 72% 64% Having the U.S. default on its debts 14 14 11 17 28 Eight in ten Americans are following the debate about raising the debt ceiling, including 29% who are following it very closely. What Could Happen When asked what they think the outcome might be if the debt ceiling is not raised, 38% think the U.S. will probably default on its debts if a deal isn’t reached, but more, 51%, think the U.S. will probably not default. Republicans and independents are less likely than Democrats to think the U.S. will default. Will the U.S. Default on its Debts if a Deal Isn’t Reached? Total Reps Dems Inds Probably 38% 31% 45% 37% Probably not 51 58 43 54
However, eight in 10 Americans think a severe downturn in the economy and the stock market is at least somewhat likely if the debt ceiling isn’t raised, including 45% who think that is very likely. Concerns about this have grown; the percentage that thinks this is very likely to occur has risen 20 percentage points since last month. Likelihood of a Severe Downturn in Economy/Stock Market if Debt Ceiling Isn’t Raised Now 6/2011 Very likely 45% 25% Somewhat likely 37 47 Not very likely 13 18 More than half of Americans are convinced that a failure to raise the debt ceiling will mean that certain entitlement payments will be stopped, such as payments to veterans and Social Security payments. 54% think this is at least somewhat likely – including 27% who think it is very likely, up from 19% last month. 44% think this is not very likely to happen. Likelihood of Payments Being Stopped if the Debt Ceiling Isn’t Raised Now 6/2011 Very likely 27% 19% Somewhat likely 27 36 Not very likely 44 38 But not all Americans are convinced that the impact of not raising the debt ceiling would be as dire as the Obama administration is portraying it. Some are skeptical: 36% think the administration is making things sound worse than they would be if the debt ceiling is not raised. But slightly more, 40%, thinks the administration is describing the impact of not raising the debt ceiling accurately, and another 14% think the administration is making things sound better than they would be. There are partisan differences. When the Obama Administration Talks About the Debt Ceiling, Is It …? Total Reps Dems Making things sound worse 36% 51% 20% Describing things accurately 40 21 59 Making things sound better 14 19 13 The Negotiations Americans place more of the blame for the budget standoff on Republicans in Congress rather than the President. 49% blame the Republicans, while 29% blame President Obama. 13% say both are to blame. Views were similar during the budget standoffs in 1995 and 1996. Then, more Americans found the Republicans in Congress to be at fault than President Bill Clinton. Blame for the Budget Standoff? Republicans in Congress Barack Obama Both (vol.)
Inds 40% 35 11
49% 29 13
The President may receive less blame from the public because he is more likely to be seen as trying to find a solution and doing what is best for American families. 60% think President Obama is really trying to find a solution to the standoff about the debt ceiling, while just 32% say the same for the Republicans in Congress. Really Trying to Find a Solution? Yes No President Obama 60% 34 Republicans in Congress 32% 62 And while 56% of Republicans think the President is not really trying to find a solution, 37% think members of their own party in Congress are not either. Views were also similar in early 1996, during the budget standoff between President Clinton and the Republicans in Congress. Then, more thought Bill Clinton was trying to find a solution (62%) than thought the Republicans in Congress were (42%). 51% of Americans say President Obama is more concerned about doing what is best for their family, while 32% think the Republicans are more concerned. Again, views were similar in 1996. In the Debt Ceiling Debate, Who is more Concerned with Doing the Best for Your Family? Barack Obama 51% Republicans in Congress 32 Americans want to see all those involved in the debt ceiling negotiations – the President, Republicans, and Democrats - compromise their positions in order to come to an agreement. Few think the parties involved should stick to their positions even if it means not striking a deal. A majority of Republicans want to see their party in Congress compromise, and Democrats feel that way about President Obama and Congressional Democrats. In Debt Ceiling Negotiations, What Should Each Do? President Obama Reps in Congress Dems in Congress Compromise 69% 85% 78% Stick to positions 23 11 16 While more disapprove than approve of how he is handling the negotiations, President Obama receives less criticism from the public than either party in Congress. 43% approve of how the President is handling the talks, and 48% disapprove. Approval drops to 31% for the Democrats in Congress. Approval on the Republicans’ handling of the negotiations is just 21%, while 71% disapprove. Handling of Debt Ceiling Negotiations Approve Disapprove President Obama 43% 48 Democrats in Congress 31% 58 Republicans in Congress 21% 71
Even a majority of Republicans, 51%, disapprove of how members of their party in Congress are handling the negotiations. Far fewer Democrats disapprove of how their own party (32%) or President Obama (22%) is handling the talks. Expectations are that the two sides will come to an agreement and the debt ceiling will be raised before the August 2nd deadline. 66% expect that to happen, while just 31% do not. Agreement on Debt Ceiling Before Aug. 2? Probably will 66% Probably will not 31 Feelings About Washington As the debate over government spending and the debt ceiling continues, Americans’ ire at Washington has grown. 28% say they are angry at the way things are going in Washington, the highest level recorded since the question was first asked in early 2010, and another 51% are dissatisfied. Feelings About How Things are Going in Washington Now 5/2011 11/2010 5/2010 3% 1% 3% 5% 14 22 21 23 51 54 56 48 28 19 18 22
Enthusiastic Satisfied Dissatisfied Angry
2/2010 3% 26 53 17
This poll was conducted among a random sample of 810 adults nationwide, interviewed by telephone July 15-17, 2011. The error due to sampling for results based on the entire sample could be plus or minus four percentage points. The error for subgroups is higher. This poll release conforms to the Standards of Disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.
CBS NEWS POLL The Debt Ceiling Debate Continues July 15-17, 2011 q1 Which comes closest to your feelings about the way things are going in Washington -enthusiastic, satisfied but not enthusiastic, dissatisfied but not angry, or angry? ** TOTAL RESPONDENTS ** *** Party ID *** Total Rep Dem Ind % % % % 3 0 7 0 14 9 18 14 51 55 55 45 28 35 14 37 4 1 6 4
Enthusiastic Satisfied, not enthusiastic Dissatisfied, not angry Angry Don't know/No answer q2-3 BLANK
May11b % 1 22 54 19 4
q4 Do you approve or disapprove of the way Barack Obama is handling the current negotiations on the debt ceiling? Approve Disapprove DK/NA 43 48 9 15 81 4 69 22 9 37 52 11
q5 Do you approve or disapprove of the way Democrats in Congress are handling the current negotiations on the debt ceiling? Approve Disapprove DK/NA 31 58 11 8 84 8 56 32 12 23 66 11
q6 Do you approve or disapprove of the way Republicans in Congress are handling the current negotiations on the debt ceiling? Approve Disapprove DK/NA q7-8 BLANK q9 How closely have you been following news about the debt ceiling debate in Washington? Would you say you have followed it very closely, somewhat closely, or not too closely? Very closely Somewhat closely Not too closely DK/NA 29 52 19 0 32 51 16 1 22 53 25 0 33 51 16 0 21 71 8 42 51 7 11 82 7 17 73 10
q10 Do you think Barack Obama is really trying to find a solution to the standoff about the debt ceiling with the Republicans in Congress, or not? Really trying Not really trying DK/NA 60 34 6 36 56 8 81 15 4 56 37 7
q11 Do you think the Republicans in Congress are really trying to find a solution to the standoff about the debt ceiling with Barack Obama, or not? ** TOTAL RESPONDENTS ** *** Party ID *** Total Rep Dem Ind % % % % 32 57 13 33 62 37 82 60 6 6 5 7
Really trying Not really trying DK/NA
q12 In the current negotiations about the debt ceiling, which do you think Barack Obama should do--compromise some of his positions in order to come to an agreement, or stick to his positions even if it means not coming to an agreement? Compromise Stick to positions Depends (Vol.) Don't know/No answer 69 23 3 5 87 7 1 5 52 40 4 4 73 19 3 5
q13 In the current negotiations about the debt ceiling, which do you think the Republicans in Congress should do--compromise some of their positions in order to come to an agreement, or stick to their positions even if it means not coming to an agreement? Compromise Stick to positions Depends (Vol.) Don't know/No answer 85 11 1 3 75 22 1 2 94 3 1 2 82 12 1 5
q14 In the current negotiations about the debt ceiling, which do you think the Democrats in Congress should do--compromise some of their positions in order to come to an agreement, or stick to their positions even if it means not coming to an agreement? Compromise Stick to positions Depends (Vol.) Don't know/No answer 78 16 1 5 92 4 1 3 64 31 2 3 82 10 1 7
q15 Think about the debate over the debt ceiling that has been going on in Washington. In the current debate, who do you think is more concerned about doing what is best for you and your family--the Republicans in Congress or Barack Obama? Republicans in Congress Barack Obama Both (vol.) Neither (vol.) Don't know/No answer 32 51 1 10 6 71 16 1 6 6 8 85 2 2 3 29 44 0 19 8
q16 Who do you blame more for the current budget standoff -- the Republicans in Congress or Barack Obama? Republicans in Congress Barack Obama Both equally (vol.) DK/NA 49 29 13 9 18 55 16 11 76 11 7 6 45 30 15 10
q17 Congress will soon decide whether or not to raise the federal debt ceiling, which is the legal limit on how much the federal government can borrow to pay for the budget deficit. Some people say the debt ceiling should be raised, because otherwise the country could default on its loans, causing severe problems for the U.S. economy. Other people say the debt ceiling should not be raised because the country owes too much money already, and raising it will cause long term economic problems. In general, do you think Congress should or should not raise the federal debt ceiling? ** TOTAL RESPONDENTS ** *** Party ID *** Total Rep Dem Ind % % % % 46 33 61 40 49 64 31 55 5 3 8 5
Should Should not DK/NA
Jun11a % 24 69 7
q18 Do you think an agreement on the budget and the debt ceiling should include only tax increases, OR only spending cuts, OR a combination of both tax increases and spending cuts? Only tax increases Only spending cuts Both tax increases and cuts Should not be raised (vol.) DK/NA 3 28 66 1 2 1 39 55 3 2 7 20 71 0 2 1 28 68 2 1
q19 If a deal is not reached on raising the debt ceiling, some people say the U.S. would be forced into default on its current debts -- that is, it would be unable to repay money that it has already borrowed. Other people say the U.S. would still be able to meet its debt payments and a default would not happen. From what you have seen or heard, do you think the U.S. probably would or probably would not default on its debts if a deal is not reached to increase the debt ceiling? Probably will default Probably will not default DK/NA 38 51 11 31 58 11 45 43 12 37 54 9
q20 If you had to choose, which would be more acceptable to you: 1. An agreement on the deficit and debt ceiling that you did NOT fully support, OR 2. Not reaching an agreement and having the U.S. go into default on its debts? Agreement don't fully support 76 U.S. defaulting on its debt 14 DK/NA 10 q21 BLANK q22 When the Obama administration talks about what could happen if the debt ceiling is not raised, do you think it is making things sound better than it really would be, making things sound worse than they really would be, or is it describing the situation accurately? Making things sound better Making things sound worse Describing things accurately DK/NA 14 36 40 10 19 51 21 9 13 20 59 8 11 40 35 14 78 14 8 80 11 9 72 17 11
q23 If the federal debt ceiling is not raised, how likely do you think it will be that the economy and the stock market take a severe downturn -- very likely, somewhat likely, or not very likely? ** TOTAL RESPONDENTS ** *** Party ID *** Total Rep Dem Ind % % % % 45 38 53 44 37 46 30 37 13 12 13 14 5 4 4 5
Very likely Somewhat likely Not very likely DK/NA
Jun11a % 25 47 18 10
q24 If the federal debt ceiling is not raised, how likely do you think it will be that payments made to veterans and Social Security and Medicare beneficiaries will be stopped -very likely, somewhat likely, or not very likely? Very likely Somewhat likely Not very likely DK/NA 27 27 44 2 17 30 50 3 42 26 30 2 19 27 52 2 19 36 38 7
q25 Do you think Barack Obama and the Republicans in Congress probably will or probably will not reach an agreement on raising the debt ceiling before the August 2 deadline? Probably will Probably will not DK/NA 66 31 3 65 30 5 70 28 2 63 33 4
Total Respondents Total Republicans Total Democrats Total Independents
UNWEIGHTED 810 214 272 324
193 (24%) 282 (35%) 335 (41%)
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