Public divided on how to attack deficit
November 30th, 2010
04:57 PM ET
12 years ago

Public divided on how to attack deficit

(CNN) – Americans are at odds over how to tighten the country's fiscal belt and that's reflected in a similar conflict in leaders of government.

Ninety percent of the public can agree that the economy is the most important issue right now. But according to a new Associated Press-CNBC poll, the nation is divided over how to resolve the expanding deficit, which already exceeds one trillion dollars.

The poll reveals that 46 percent of the country would prefer increasing government spending on education, health care reform, and the development of alternative energy sources, even if it means that the deficit will grow. But, 47 percent say that reducing the deficit by cutting spending is the most important priority, even if it means the government could not implement new programs in the same areas. These findings echo the results from a CNN poll released two weeks ago; when asked if the government should spend more or less for domestic programs, half responded that it should spend more and half said it should spend less.

Despite the split, eight out of 10 believe that government services will have to be cut to balance the federal government, and almost two-thirds say some taxes will have to be increased. According to the AP-CNBC poll, the public agrees on what sacrifice will be needed. They also agree on cuts as six out of 10 say the government should reduce the number of federal workers and freeze their salaries and half of those surveyed say eliminating the tax deduction for mortgage interest is favorable if the overall income tax rate is lowered. Findings from the CNN poll are similar, as 68 percent of the public agreed that reducing the federal deficit is more important than preventing salary cuts for federal government workers.

Reducing education spending, the number of people in the military, and eliminating the child tax cut are, however, non-negotiable to over 60 percent of Americans, according to the survey. Just under half favor reducing Medicare and under half oppose reducing it. There is a similar divide among those in favor and those opposed to reducing Social Security benefits for seniors with higher incomes. The CNN poll underscores the finding that over half of the country said they were in favor of reducing Social Security for the wealthy to reduce the deficit.

Adding to the list of subjects over which the nation disagrees, Obama's approval rating similarly reflects a country divided; 48 percent both approve and disapprove of how he's handling his job. Though four in ten trust Democrats to handle the economy, the same amount trust the GOP to manage the deficit.

The mood of the nation continues to be solemn since 61 percent say the country is headed in the wrong direction. When asked to look toward the future, almost half expect that life for the next generation of Americans to be worse and more than half fear the federal deficit will cause a major economic crisis for this country in the next ten years.

Actions to address the federal deficit are currently underway. The president announced a plan to freeze pay for federal workers on Monday, a move in line with the majority of public opinion. The bipartisan debt commission appointed by President Obama to recommend solutions for balancing the budget is also due to issue a report this week, and has discussed targeting Social Security and Medicare to increase savings.

The AP-CNBC survey was conducted by GfK Roper from November 18-22 among 1,000 adults on landline and cellular phones. It has a sampling error of plus-or-minus 4.3 percentage points.

Filed under: CNN poll • Deficit • Polls
soundoff (30 Responses)
  1. once upon a horse

    the Republicans and many on the right always say that taxing the rich is punishment because the rich are the ones that provide the jobs. Well if that is the case then I ask "WHERE ARE THE JOBS??" The Bush Tax cuts didn't just start last year they have been in effect for at least 10 years and we have 9.5% unemployment as we speak so that rich create the jobs is more of a myth than anything. Therefore adding several trillion dollars to the deficit to keep the wealthy happy is NOT the way to go as far as decreasing it. By the way although it does not get much press the deficit has gone DOWN slighty since Obama has been in office but don't try to tell the Tea party folks that!

    November 30, 2010 07:36 pm at 7:36 pm |
  2. Mr. Lemming

    The president is doing a good job. Most of the American electorate is stupid. Propaganda is easier to follow because people
    are too lazy to think for themselves. Now look at all of the middle class items that are threatened by the Republicans like
    social security, medicare, unemployment benefits etc. Not realizing it will probably affect them also. Voters would rather believe the lie that President Obama is a muslim rather than their benefits will be cut and they no longer can afford to put food on the table. Or that health care is "socialist" when corporate interests and politicians use the same type of coverage.
    That's the way voters in this country have always been duped. Tell them that the boogie man is coming. The republicans
    know this and have used it to perfection for years.
    Oh well, enjoy your tea. I will be in my bunker when Americans finally realize the tyranny of the Fascist Republican Party!
    (Oh, by the way, they just turned down the unemployment extensions just in time for Christmas) Suckers!!!!

    November 30, 2010 07:37 pm at 7:37 pm |
  3. CBR

    Is anyone surprised by this poll? The Republicans were elected to make changes although no actual strategy appeared during the election. I never quite understood the TEA Party and they are very quiet right now. They threw their weight behind some iffy candidates and toppled some very good people. So who, pray tell, will initiate these budget cuts, who will vote for them, and who will be hurt by these decisions?
    I hope the Republicans have the answers. I cannot believe they will do much that is constructive because their main agenda item is to stop Obama. Friom Day One their answer to Obama was "Hell, no! What goes around comes around and the Republicans will soon discover they are in the hot sea and can no longer just say no!

    November 30, 2010 07:46 pm at 7:46 pm |
  4. Chipster

    What the public wants is simple: cut spending, cut taxes, eliminate the deficit BUT don't touch our benefits, give us more unemployment, more farm subsidies, more job training, more college tuitiion loans, more highway repairs, more spending on education, more space exploration, more Medicare, more Social Security, more more more more more..... That's all the public wants: they want ALL of the services and none of the cost. So good luck to the newly elected officials! All they need is magic.

    November 30, 2010 08:11 pm at 8:11 pm |
  5. King Benny

    Isn't it funny how the Repubs make their numbers up by just their words? You will think they make up the whole of America. But America has always had and will always have two halves.

    November 30, 2010 08:28 pm at 8:28 pm |
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