CNN Poll: Strong partisan divide on debt ceiling
July 21st, 2011
11:47 AM ET
11 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. Rudy NYC

    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.

    July 21, 2011 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  2. Emmy Skaddittle

    I really don't understand why some people don't want the ceiling raised. I will put it in simple terms(like republican candidates do) We need to raise this limit to pay the bills on things we have already bought. If we don't they will raise our interest raise and we will have to pay a lot more

    July 21, 2011 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  3. Grimm

    Perhaps I missed it but I do not recall hearing Congress discuss what THEY will be giving up. They each have a six figure salary, furnished offices, and staff. Surely they are willing to sacrafice just as fervantly as they are looking to impose sacrafice on us... ?

    July 21, 2011 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  4. Lynda/Minnesota

    "Perhaps I missed it but I do not recall hearing Congress discuss what THEY will be giving up."

    One can only hope a majority of them will be giving up a great deal come election day 2012.

    Obama/Biden 2012

    July 21, 2011 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  5. Billy

    GOP is unwilling to compromise. They rather see the country burn than have millionaires and billionaires pay slightly higher taxes.

    July 21, 2011 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  6. Larry AZ

    The people and politicians we have in the country today have to be among the dumbest class of people in the world. 1. We shouldn't raise the debt ceiling again because we can't afford it. 2. Given the trade defecit we are running combined with the debt we have already incurred it makes no sense to say 1.5 trillion in spending cuts combined with tax increas (only on the rich) would even make a dent in the total deficit we are running. What America needs is increased production (only possible through incentivies for companies to produce here again i.e. tax cuts for US produced goods and tax increases on imports), tax increases (across the board and this is coming from a poor college st), and massive spending cuts! Wake up America it's years of idiots in office Dems and Reps alike that have brought us here and it is idiot Americans that depend only on liberal or conservative tv for their decisions that are going to ruin the country. How about using common sense and some education to see we are in a very bad spot and raising the debt ceiling with any of the proposed measures still equals bad news for America!

    July 21, 2011 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  7. Rudy NYC

    John, PA

    We don't have a TAX problem, We have a SPENDING problem. We are being "Weinered" by Bernanke, Obama and all of the Democrats in Congress.

    Let’s include one specific Tax Increase.
    If you are a registered Democrat, vote Democratic or donate any money to a Democrat, you pay an additional 15% tax on all income, capital gains, money you take in.
    This will get the 51% that pay no taxes to have some skin in the game and share the sacrifice. This will get Warren Buffett, Teresa Heinz and the other bleeding heart liberals to pay their far share.
    Many of that 50% who pay no personal income tax do so because they are seniors living on tax free pensions, and people who simply do not have a job.

    We didn't have a "TAX problem" until GWB unbalanced the budget with his *temporary* tax cuts. As I recall, he fired his own budget director for public stating that the policy would result in trillion dollar deficits within 10 years. The final fiscal year for GWB, FY2009, saw a $1.5T deficit. But, hey, the Republican defense of the of their tax policies was "deficits don't matter." Deficits do matter. Too bad Republicans are only pretending that they do.

    July 21, 2011 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  8. Rudy NYC

    We have a Republican crisis in this country.

    July 21, 2011 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  9. Stephen in VA

    Every election in recent history (back to the landslide that Mondale lost) has been won by courting Independent know, the same folks who are recognizing that the Republican partisans are sinking this nation now. I almost feel bad, being a former Republican, for the whooping the Republican party is going to get in 2012 as a result.

    July 21, 2011 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  10. John, PA

    It’s about time we get a leader in the White House, anyone can beat Obama in the 2012 election; Romney, Palin, Pawlenty, Bachmann, Gingrich or John Edwards could easily beat Obama in a massive land slide win. Obama, the Democrats in the house and the 23 Senators up for election in 2012 better understand their jobs are on the line, we are watching how they vote, they will be replaced. We are at depression levels of employment in America our government debt is at crisis levels.

    July 21, 2011 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  11. R

    Oh look, it's the same old people posting their same old tired comments. Here's an idea, if so many of you think you know how to run this country, then get people to elect you to some public service/government position.

    As for the debt, here's what's going to have to happen:
    Democrats – sorry, but the lazy, inept welfare people are going to have less money in their checks.
    Republicans – sorry, but you need to get off your high horse and start helping out more. You've got the money, use it wisely.

    July 21, 2011 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  12. Rudy NYC

    Annie, Atlanta wrote:
    Rudy NYC – also the Republicans want to privatize education to make money off of educating our children, i.e. the voucher programs.
    I dislike school vouchers. I think they represent the systematic dismantling of our public education system. Soon, when all of the public schools are closed, a lucky few will be getting public vouchers. Then, the argument will begin as to why public funds are being used to pay for the private education. Also, I do not see how it is consitutional for publicly funded vouchers to be used at private instutions anyway. Lastly, if vouchers cannot be made available to all, then vouchers should be available to no one.

    July 21, 2011 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  13. Exasperated!!!

    The Republicans must be living on "FANTASY ISLAND" if they really believe voters won't hold them responsible if the US defaults! The GOP needs to get their heads out of their assess and tell the Tea Party morons to STFU and get in the back seat before they implode the country and the GOP!! Unfortunately, I think the GOP would rather go down with the ship than admit they sold millions of voters a "BILL OF GOODS" concerning job creation in 2010.

    BOEHNER = "ONE-TERM SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE!!" BTW, Mr Speaker take your lap dog McConnell with you!!

    July 21, 2011 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  14. REG in AZ

    These people are absolutely ridiculous, I would think even criminal, as they are totally irresponsible in being completely and obnoxiously focused just on their political ambitions and in concentrating only on serving those who enable them – without any concern for what it costs the majority – by stubbornly protecting Tax Cuts for the wealthy, maintaining concessions for oil companies, and on and on with belligerent concern only for “big money”, their masters, as they refuse to cooperate, to have any bipartisanship to ever solve any problems. They literally don’t even care about the people, the majority, especially not the total middle class, except just to feed them the BS, the deception in trying to con and manipulate them as they continue in their stubborn, arrogant and cocky ways taking care of themselves and the few. Their seems no hope that they may ever stumble upon their consciences and cut out all of the self-serving garbage and become honest and responsible. The only choice the people have is to remember all of this crap and to vote them out of office asap. And the Tea Party affectionists and the Republican loyalists better start facing reality and stop denying that they are being conned and manipulated (unless of course they are part of the “big money” few). The Republican Party, and especially the Tea Party, have literally become boldly and obnoxiously, dishonestly and belligerently “puppets” for Special Interests and the influential, powerful and extremely wealthy few, who strongly support them and who “pull their strings” – it is totally obvious to anyone who can be objective and rational, refusing to be duped, as their actions just leave no doubt. The only way to ever get them back to serving the people, to being the Grand Ole Party they were, is to firmly and completely reject what they have become.

    July 21, 2011 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  15. Bruce

    What I don't get is how tea-party peeps (who say that nothing bad will happen if the debt ceiling is not raised before August 2nd) have so much faith in President Obama and Secretary Geitner to prioritize the limited money they will have to spend on August 3rd and beyond. Why on earth would they put so much power in the President's hands?

    Also what I don't get is how the media lets the President get away with statements like "I don't know if I'll be able to cut social security checks on August 3rd if the debt ceiling isn't raised." You don't know? Holy cr@p, I really really hope you have a plan worked out just in case Congress doesn't raise the debt ceiling for you. If you have a plan, then you know, and you are lying by saying you don't know. If you don't have a plan, well that's worse than lying that you don't know...

    July 21, 2011 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  16. GI Joe

    Revenue to Government is like a Salary to a family.

    If the family needs more money to pay for rising costs and more and more family members (babies do happen), do they cut mortgage, utilities, food, care for their children? What if they're NEVER given an increase in salary? Default on mortgage? Credit Cards? Utility Bills? Buy no groceries? Bills they are already committed to pay don't get paid. What happens?

    July 21, 2011 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  17. Democrat Class Warfare & Race Baiting - Destroying the economy, destroying the country

    Forget about the short term problem, what about the LONG TERM PROBLEM?!! The Democrats have set this country up for financial disaster, with $1.7 TRILLION deficits as far as the eye can see! In a very few years this country will have OVER $20 TRILLION in debt that we'll be paying interest on. If the interest rates increase, WE ARE SCREWED. The paltry 1,2,3,4 trillion they talk about "cutting" is a joke. The HUGE DEBT PROBLEM STILL REMAINS.

    July 21, 2011 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  18. healthcareprofessional.fvp

    and the government wants to increase the debt ceiling. thats nothing more than me maxing out my $4000.00 credit limit and asking american express for an $2000.00 what makes you think on god's green earth that amexpress will do that!!!!!! the government spent way too much that it is bringing in profit/ revenue.. no surprise that americans who have financial problems do the same. thats the aweful price of american capitalism/ american consumerism. i have made financial mistakes of my own, only to learn the hard way that it is vital to spend wisely.

    i have seen with my own eyes that people bought multiple iphone 4's. someone i know bought seven of them for friends and family. now he wants to do the exact same thing this year when the iphone 5 comes out, and buy seven of them for friends and family..... american stupidity at its best. and do you people think that the democrats or the republicans have the solution... they never did, because if they did, they would have fixed the economy 10-15 years ago when i was a kid. we as americans had the solution, but we threw away the solution in the toilet.

    July 21, 2011 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  19. GI Joe

    Ignorant, thoughtless, selfish, inexperienced members of the house will bring this country to it's knees.

    Thanks to all those who voted for those Tea-Baggers. I'll be happy when wall-street crashes AGAIN. Then THEY will have no money either (except Cantor, who is betting his money in hedge-fund that US will default). Welcome to the real world.

    July 21, 2011 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  20. aaron in MN

    Obama cannot promise to pay social security. If we have to make payment to the foreign investors that hold our debt because of nation security then we must pay our debts. Republicans voted SEVEN times under George Bush to raise the debt ceiling. Dick Cheney, "deficits don't matter." Reagan, Bush 1 and Bush 2 have given us this debt. Wall Street and the top 1% just stole the middle classes' wealth in what is the biggest scheme, looting, stealing from the American middle class of all time! TAX THE HELL OUT OF THEM!!!!! Millions have lost their homes at no fault of their own. millions have lost their jobs and no fault of their own.

    July 21, 2011 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  21. Skisquirrel

    @John, PA
    I propose a spending cut. All registered republicans will receive no federal funding or federal services, including highways, defense, security, unemployment, social security, or medicare.

    Now that we're done with partisan grandstanding, can we make a compromise and fix the issue?

    July 21, 2011 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  22. Anthony

    So, Norquist, the founder of Americans for Tax Reform, who has many Republican politicians signing his no-tax-increase pledge, just said that "Not continuing a tax cut is not technically a tax increase." Not that he would have much choice in the matter. With the way Republicans are acting in the debt ceiling crisis- it is their way or the highway- does anyone think that they will get Democratic cooperation in extending the Bush tax cuts? The Bush tax cuts will not extend themselves. They are due to expire in 2012.

    July 21, 2011 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  23. indie voter

    The Tea party and the extremest are the downfall of this country.

    July 21, 2011 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  24. Barry

    I think congress should stop blaming one another and do the right thing for the American people.

    July 21, 2011 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  25. Rob in MO

    The Republican party is owned completely by the rich, many of whom have no commitment to the welfare of the Amercian people. They live in their own world protected by some Democrat politicians and ALL Republican politicians. Increasinly their wealth comes from foreign investments and markets and third world slave labor, so they don't give a damn about the American middle class.

    July 21, 2011 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
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