CNN Poll: Two-thirds say fiscal cliff poses major problem
November 26th, 2012
05:00 AM ET
1 year ago

CNN Poll: Two-thirds say fiscal cliff poses major problem

Washington (CNN) - A new national poll suggests Americans understand that the "fiscal cliff" is no joking matter.

Two-thirds of people questioned in a CNN/ORC International survey (PDF) say that the U.S. would face a crisis or major problems if the country went off the "fiscal cliff" at the end of the year, and if that happened, Republicans in Congress would probably receive the greater share of the blame.

The poll also indicates that more than seven in ten Americans call for compromise on this issue, but they are pessimistic about that actually happening, with two-thirds predicting that Washington officials will act like "spoiled children," not "responsible adults," in the upcoming negotiations.

Last year Congress and President Barack Obama agreed to a program to reduce the federal deficit that some people refer to as the "fiscal cliff." Unless Congress and the President reach an agreement within the next few weeks, tax rates will automatically rise next year for nearly all Americans and major spending cuts will automatically begin to kick in for most government spending programs, including military programs.

According to the poll, which was released Monday, nearly one out of four say those tax increases and spending cuts will cause a crisis, with another 44% saying they would cause major problems. Nearly one in four say if the country falls off the "fiscal cliff," only minor problems would occur, with 7% saying there would be no consequences.

"Americans definitely feel that they have something at stake in the upcoming negotiations - 77% believe that their personal financial situation will be affected if the government goes off the fiscal cliff," said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.

At issue in the negotiations is a disagreement between the two major political parties over how to best raise the federal government's revenues. The president and most congressional Democrats argue for tax rate increases on the wealthiest Americans in order to raise revenue, while most congressional Republicans call for the closing of loopholes and reform in the tax code. Both parties have indicated a willingness to implement spending cuts, although a decision over how much and where has yet to be made.

So what does the public think?

Two thirds of those questioned in the poll say that any agreement should include a mix of spending cuts and tax increases, with just under one in three saying a deal should only include spending cuts.

Democrats questioned in the survey overwhelmingly support an agreement that has both, and six out of ten independents feel the same way. By a 52%-44% margin, Republicans also favor a mixture of spending cuts and tax increases instead of a deal that only includes spending cuts.

As for the sticking point between the parties over an increase in taxes for the wealthiest Americans, 56% say taxes on wealthy people should be kept high so the government can use their money for programs to help lower-income people, with 36% saying taxes on such high earners should be kept low because they invest their money in the private sector and that helps the economy and creates jobs.

As for the prospects of a deal to avoid the "fiscal cliff," the public's not so optimistic.

"Americans aren't sanguine about the prospects of a deal. Only 28% say that Washington officials will act like responsible adults in this matter, with 67% saying they believe they will behave like spoiled children," adds Holland.

The poll also indicates that the GOP is not exactly bargaining from a position of strength. Fifty-three percent of the country has an unfavorable view of the Republican Party; only 42% want to see congressional Republican have more influence than the president over the direction the nation takes in the next two years. And seven in ten say the GOP has not done enough to cooperate with Obama.

All of that helps explain why more Americans would blame the Republicans in Congress (45%) rather than Obama (34%) if the fiscal cliff provisions actually go into effect next year. Obama comes in for his share of criticism - nearly half say he is not doing enough to cooperate with the Republicans, although seven in ten want him to compromise with the GOP even if he has to sacrifice some of his beliefs.

The CNN poll was conducted by ORC International from November 16-18, with 1,023 adult Americans questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus three percentage points.

CNN Political Editor Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report


Filed under: Fiscal Cliff • Polls
soundoff (87 Responses)
  1. Get Real

    It would be nice if one side would quit blaming the other and both sides work together to come up with a solution. Plain and simple EVERYONE is going to have to pitch in no matter what their social status is.

    November 26, 2012 05:13 am at 5:13 am |
  2. Donaize

    It is only fair that the entire country have skin in the game – don't know how one does that but the whole country is in trouble but only one sliver of the population is being singled out as if somehow all of their tax money is going to make everything better.

    November 26, 2012 06:08 am at 6:08 am |
  3. Ginni Tritt

    John and Harry: It is time for you guys to work together–not in competition. Use the GRIT model–I give, you give, we all get. Ignore the Tea-Party whiners. Tell AARP they cannot get it–or keep it– all. (And I AM a member of AARP–but reality bites, ppl!)
    Our "forefathers" so many of you cite constantly KNEW how to compromise and did not see it as a 4-letter word.
    Get a new motto onto a bumper sticker– WORK TOGETHER FOR EVERYONE!!

    November 26, 2012 06:16 am at 6:16 am |
  4. Joe

    And 7 out of 10 do not want Obama care....

    November 26, 2012 06:20 am at 6:20 am |
  5. fedupwithla

    Ha, ha! Fiscal cliff! We have been laughing about this way back since Reagan's time! Keep piling on the debt, America! By that junk from China! Help build their military! Help them buy US bonds so that they can support our government! Ha, ha! Laughing all the way to self-destruction and the dissolution of the Union! Ha-ha! Good luck!

    November 26, 2012 06:27 am at 6:27 am |
  6. Joe Rando

    It is fascinating to me that the point of representative government is that we can have "professional" decision makers who are able to take the time to understand the issues and options and make wise decisions. Instead, it appears, it is the public who gets it and the the professionals who don't have a clue. At this point, this country would be better off with a plebiscite.

    November 26, 2012 06:30 am at 6:30 am |
  7. Colleen

    It would be really nice if all the politicians took these polls seriously and did what the people are asking of them–compromise and get the job done!!

    November 26, 2012 06:31 am at 6:31 am |
  8. mike

    "fiscal cliff" what a joke. They can raise taxes to 100% and reduce government by 90% and it wouldn't make a dent in the federal debt. The US owes more money than the total amount of money in existence.

    The only way to save anything is to default. Raising taxes on people is the most ignorant thing possible. I say we shut down the glutinous feds and restore power to the states. The bozo's in Washington couldn't fix anything, in fact the idiots just continue to make matters worse.

    November 26, 2012 06:32 am at 6:32 am |
  9. eddhur

    that is what is the matter now compromise nobody has a back bone to stand for what they think it is going to fold because they make is worst every time they move we have a 16 trillion dollar debt when the inflation hits because of it the middle class is doomed right now they can't get a lone to buy a house or start a business everything is going up it will have to go under if your community is like mind there is way to much give away my brother run's a small store he say 80% of his business is from people on a check or food stamps and 80& of them are on drug's how do your fix that

    November 26, 2012 06:34 am at 6:34 am |
  10. Thomas

    If a deal is not reached and this recovering economy tanks again, the Republicans may as well not run any candidates in 2014.

    November 26, 2012 06:37 am at 6:37 am |
  11. michael henderson

    I am not an economist. Although considering their track record, I don't see the fact that I am not makes my views any less valid. I, for one, would like to see the "fiscal cliff". How does one get out of debt? Make more money and spend less money. The "fiscal cliff" forces the government to increase revenue and decrease spending across the board. One way or another, everybody pays. Congress and the President would not be given an opportunity to play favorites and make special deals that water down the effect of any agreement. The country MUST face the debt sooner or later. Why not now? Yes, there will be consequences now. Perhaps it is time to look 5 or 10 years ahead instead of the next election. Don't count on congress or the President to fix this. If they could or would, we would not be having this discussion.

    November 26, 2012 06:37 am at 6:37 am |
  12. Shills

    MANY of these lawyers in leadership WANT the 'fiscal cliff' and they will sell us out. More $$ for them, more power and control of us, and they can spend and spend to their heart's content while blaming the other side (Democrat vs. Republican) for people's pain and heartache. It's a perfect scenario that Juris Doctorates love in Law School having their 'debates' with each other. The joke is on us folks.

    November 26, 2012 06:39 am at 6:39 am |
  13. aCriticalEye

    Anyone that signed the Norquist Pledge is a TRAITOR to this nation!
    We need to eliminate the Tea Nuts in 2014!

    November 26, 2012 06:39 am at 6:39 am |
  14. Raf

    Yes, compromise.

    November 26, 2012 06:42 am at 6:42 am |
  15. larry5

    If the politicians have no idea how to do their jobs and they are completely confused then the next best thing is to raise taxes on somebody. Who they pick will depend on polling information. There's no such thing in Washington DC as principles or planning or working on a budget. These people won a popularity contest. It has nothing to do with being qualified. On top of that we have a President that makes no connection between his words and his actions. I'm sorry but or government is nothing better than a ship of fools sailing without a rudder.

    November 26, 2012 06:49 am at 6:49 am |
  16. Washington Is Out Of Touch with reality

    Here comes the tax king, obama and the others in washington, but a storm is brewing and a revolution is coming.

    November 26, 2012 06:49 am at 6:49 am |
  17. rick1948

    If 2/3rds of the people want compromise in Congress, why do they keep electing people who won't?????

    November 26, 2012 06:49 am at 6:49 am |
  18. Rick

    We the people are so very stupid... National Debt in the year 2000, $5 Trillion. National debt in 2009 after Bush and funding 2 wars, $9 Trillion. National debt after stimulus money bonfire of $800 Billion and 3.5 years of Obama's policies, $16 Trillion. Cost of Obamacare estimated by the CBO, $2.7 Trillion.

    Watching the media portray this with more of a focus on whether Republicans will play ball regarding the out of control spending in Washington, Priceless...

    November 26, 2012 06:49 am at 6:49 am |
  19. jcvance

    It is time for compromise. The election put the GOP in a position with few options. Now the dems need to be ready to pony up on entitlement reform. If they don't give, they'll become the alter-ego of the GOP and pay a price in 2014.

    November 26, 2012 06:51 am at 6:51 am |
  20. Stanchman

    would question how severe the impact would be... media is leading us to believe it's significant... cliff appears to set us back to the spending and tax levels of 10-12 years ago... frankly would like to see us "fall over" as whatever agreement reached would be a patchwork of nonsense, economy is large enough to absorb.. my money is on kick the can down the road solution as the players don't have the stones to do what's right...

    November 26, 2012 06:55 am at 6:55 am |
  21. Gabbo

    Liberals ARE such children, after all !

    November 26, 2012 06:57 am at 6:57 am |
  22. Scott Nacke

    Forget compromise!!! We all need to pay more in taxes and have more budget cuts!!!
    I don't want to, but we have to.

    November 26, 2012 06:58 am at 6:58 am |
  23. Minnie Mouse

    The entire country is going to feel the effects. Your actions are going to effect 97% of the country, which in terms that is not good at all for nearly everyone. Americans are going to be losing money of his or her payroll check they cannot afford. There's going to be spending cuts in the wrong directions that will effect numerous areas of the country and the government, as well as millions of families. There's no doubt about it that as the government as a whole in it's entirety that you all need to make the decsion amongst yourselves and don't let things automatically happen that you know are going to be disasterous for our country. Americans have already had enough set backs with the high prices of everything for the last nearly four years and now the costs keep escalating. We cannot afford to lose anymore money when we can barely live as it is.
    There are people working two and three jobs and cannot make it. The only people the "Fiscal Clilff" is not going to effect is the wealthy. Even when you raise taxes on the wealthly, which needs to 100% be done these folks are not even going to be able to feel the pain. The Middle Class and below, we are the ones who are going to feel the pain and then taking funds out of our children's education ect.. That is unexceptable! I just hope as our government, who was elected in office by "The People", would for once listen to what the "American People" are saying and that is to do something and don't sit and do nothing. Now is the time to solve these huge problems the country is facing and don't put things off and procrastinate because that is only going to make matters worst. You cannot spend time going over and over on the same issues that keep lingering. This needs to be resolved. Everyone is just going to have to come into terms and realize that you have to compromise to make a resolution.

    November 26, 2012 07:01 am at 7:01 am |
  24. Dennis

    Strong numbers: 2/3 of Americans want both a tax increase and spending cuts; 7 in 10 Americans say Republicans haven't cooperated enough with the President; 77% believe their personal finances will be hurt if the country "goes off the cliff"; 7 in 10 want a compromise – even 52% of Republicans insist on compromise. Worse for Republicans: 53% of Americans have an unfavorable opinion of the Republican Party.
    The writing's on the wall.

    November 26, 2012 07:03 am at 7:03 am |
  25. Paul Cooper

    We do not have a revenue problem. We have a spending problem. The government is spending over a trillion dollars a year more than it has, and even the president's grand idea is only to raise taxes to generate another trillion dollars in ten year's time.

    If the Democrats and those who just re-elected them want a compromise, they should put their budget on the table and show exactly where they are going to cut spending to at least no more than revenue. Then we can talk about a tax hike, with the additional revenue used ONLY to start paying down the Obama Debt.

    Otherwise, fiscal cliff here we come and good for us. It may well be the only way to bring this spending spree to a halt. If the Republicans get blamed for that, so be it; they are as much a part of the problem as the Democrats.

    November 26, 2012 07:07 am at 7:07 am |
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