CNN Poll: Strong partisan divide on debt ceiling
July 21st, 2011
11:47 AM ET
3 years ago

CNN Poll: Strong partisan divide on debt ceiling

Washington (CNN) – Americans are hungry for a solution to the debt ceiling debate but there is a big partisan divide that isn't going to make a solution easy to achieve, according to a new national survey.

And a CNN/ORC International Poll also indicates that while Democrats and independent voters are open to a number of different approaches, Republicans draw the line at tax increases, and many of them oppose raising the nation's debt ceiling under any circumstances.

"That may create a problem for the Republican party, because most Americans think that GOP has been acting irresponsibly in the debt ceiling talks and they will blame congressional Republicans, not President Barack Obama, if no action is taken on the debt ceiling by August 2," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.

The survey's Thursday release comes as time is running out to reach an agreement on a deficit reduction deal which increase the government's borrowing limit, so it can continue to pay its bills after August 2. If Congress fails to raise the current $14.3 trillion debt ceiling by that date, Americans could face rising interest rates, a declining dollar and increasingly jittery financial markets, among other problems.

Eighteen percent of people questioned say that if the debt ceiling is not raised, it would cause a crisis, with another 43 percent saying it would create major problems for the country. Three in ten say a failure to raise the debt ceiling would cause only minor problems and six percent say no problems would occur.

As expected, there's a partisan divide.

"Democrats and independents predict that not raising the debt ceiling will create a crisis or major problems in the U.S." adds Holland. "Roughly half of all Republicans think that will create only minor problems or no problems at all."

The survey is the sixth poll released over the past week to indicate that a solid majority of the public want any agreement to raise the debt ceiling to include both spending cuts and tax increases. Sixty-four percent of people questioned in the CNN/ORC survey say they want a budget plan with both spending cuts and tax hikes for businesses and higher-income Americans.

Again, there's a partisan divide, with 83 percent of Democrats and nearly two-thirds of independents but just 37 percent of Republicans and 38 percent of self described tea party movement supports saying they prefer a combined approach. A majority of Republicans and tea party supporters prefer a plan that only includes spending cuts.

"Democrats and independents don't see anything wrong with raising the debt ceiling as long as Congress takes action to reduce the amount of money the government owes, and some of them are willing to raise the debt ceiling even without any action by Congress at all," says Holland.

"Republicans won't even go that far - a majority of GOPers oppose raising the debt ceiling even if Congress passes a budget plan."

According to the poll, Democrats and independents favor a plan that would cut $2 to $4 trillion and increase some taxes - something similar to the "Gang of Six' proposal by a bipartisan group of senators, or the "grand bargain" that the president has been advocating in recent weeks. Republicans oppose that approach.

Republicans like the "cut, cap, and balance" approach to the debt ceiling, as do Democrats and independents. Most Americans support a balanced budget amendment, and most, but not as many, think an amendment is necessary to get federal spending under control. A balanced budget amendment passed the House earlier this week, but a vote in the Senate is expected to fail.

But the poll indicates that few like the fallback plan to raise the debt ceiling. The proposal, first advocated by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, would give the president the ability to raise the debt ceiling essentially on his own.

The poll indicates the Republican party is likely to lose the "blame game" if it comes to that. Most Americans think Obama has acted responsibly in the debt ceiling discussions so far, but nearly two-thirds say the Republicans in Congress have not acted responsibly. Fifty-one percent say they would blame the GOP if the debt ceiling is not raised; only three in ten would blame the president.

The poll was conducted for CNN by ORC International on July 18-20, with 1,009 adult Americans questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus three percentage points.

– CNN Deputy Political Director Paul Steinhauser contributed to this story.


Filed under: CNN poll • Congress • Debt • Deficit • Polls
soundoff (86 Responses)
  1. Name

    Excuse me, where were all the whining republican conservatives when president G W Bush drove down the treasury excess of cash to a record 1T deficit by allowing the richest people to pay disproportionately lower percent tax, and got blank checks for debt ceiling increase to fund wars? As if war abroad is more important to homeland economic recovery! Also i'm curious to know the tax bracket this Norquist falls into. I'm pretty sure he basicly agreed w some people to keep their own taxes low. Now on dire situations as this one maybe I can sue one Norquist for a treason!

    July 21, 2011 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  2. DanoMcRoo

    I will be watching what my Representative and Senators do in this budget deal. If they vote to raise the debt ceiling I will contribute to, campaign for and vote for their conservative opponents next election.

    July 21, 2011 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  3. MTATL67

    The GOP has either forgotten or chose to ignore is that our government was designed to work on compromise. That is why we have a bicameral legislative branch. The Senate (created so the smaller states (RI, ND) would not be ignored by states with the large populations (NY, CA) . The House of Representative has proven the fears of the Founding Fathers true. That a small extremist group (Tea Baggers) is trying to force its will on the majority without any discussion or compromise or just ignoring other states (Cantor walking out). Members of the House of Representatives I recommend that your re-read the Constitution of the United Sates, just in case you have forgotten

    July 21, 2011 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  4. SharplyRight

    This CNN article once again portrays the Republicans as the ones at fault which is total BS. The Republicans just know that the phantom savings that the Dems promise over the next 10 years will NEVER materialize, whereas taxes withou corresponding spending caps will continue the cycle that got us into this mess. Americans should applaud the politically dangerous position the Republicans have taken in order to put our country back on the right path. Of course it would be easier to cop out and cry about Medicare but that doesn't really solve any problems does it. Look at Greece.

    July 21, 2011 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  5. Chas in Iowa

    So in essence the GOP is demanding a balanced budget on the backs of the middle class and the elderly.
    Good move GOP, well see you at the polls next year.

    July 21, 2011 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  6. Democrat Class Warfare & Race Baiting - Destroying the economy, destroying the country

    Draconian spending cuts will seriously hurt the economy and make unemployment skyrocket. Cuts are cuts are cuts. It makes no difference if we do the cuts voluntarily through 'budget deals' or involuntarily when we slam into the debt ceiling at full speed.
    =================================================================================================
    What we have is a "bloated government spending bubble". Just as the dotcom bubble burst, just as the real estate bubble burst, so must the "bloated government spending bubble" burst. The "bloated government spending bubble" has been created artificially by borrowing to pay for it. Government spending must return to something based on the reality of the taxes it collects.

    July 21, 2011 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  7. bruce guindonName

    No that is spin on your part the majority of people are confused by the republican view that our economic woes can be solved by taking from those who have the least to offer no one wants social security or any other social program touched so that the wealthy can pay less in taxes

    July 21, 2011 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  8. jayrock37

    The Teaparty is getting out the message that Obama is responsible for the ENTIRE 14 trillion dollar debt after being in office only 2 1/2 years and it's working.

    July 21, 2011 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  9. jay in california

    it is quite a load of crap that Mr Norquist is running the debate at the House and hasnt been elected by anyone.

    July 21, 2011 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  10. Peter E

    Republicans are out of touch with mainstream America? And how is that news? That's just a given.

    July 21, 2011 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  11. Peter E

    Republicans are not serious about reducing the debt. Their cap-and-lie bill exempts from the cuts Social Security, Medicare, and military spending... i.e. they already won't consider three-quarters of the budget!
    And they have the full support of the tea-baggers... who happen to be mostly made of retired white middle-class people who no longer pay taxes but are living off of taxpayer funded Social Security checks and Medicare benefits.
    Become a tea-bagger! Demand government cut spending... just not on things you collect!

    July 21, 2011 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
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