CNN Poll: Two-thirds say fiscal cliff poses major problem
November 26th, 2012
05:00 AM ET
10 years 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. Ed1

    The problem is Obama wants to spend more than we have to fund with his failed policies and the Congress was elected to stop the out of control spending that's about it.

    Come up with a plan that will cut spending by both parties and you should have a deal along with a balanced budget.

    There is so much pork out there they should find enough spending to cut.

    November 26, 2012 08:26 am at 8:26 am |
  2. Jeff from Columbus

    Increase the tax rate for the top tax bracket
    Expand the tax base so that more Americans pay taxes
    Raise income limit for Social Security taxes
    Cut Social Security benefits by 5% for those 40 and younger
    Cut Medicare benefits by 5% for those 40 and younger
    Cut Defense Spending by 10%

    That's a compromise from both parties and would go a LONG way towards eliminating our deficit.

    There'd be some nuances to all of these that would need to be worked out. For example, you wouldn't cut Medicare or Social Security benefits for those at or below the poverty level. There would be some Defense programs that couldn't be cut. And so on.

    But, in general, these are the steps we need to take to eliminate our deficit. Either we incur a little pain now or a LOT of pain later.

    November 26, 2012 08:26 am at 8:26 am |
  3. Rhonda Rahn

    The GOP is the party of NO. They are the self centered party of the wealthy and will not allow any taxes for the extremely rich at the cost of sending the middle class over the fiscal cliff. Let's vote the Republicans OUT of the House in 2014 and be done with these Tea Party crazies.

    November 26, 2012 08:26 am at 8:26 am |
  4. merlinfire

    2/3 believe its a major problem? All that proves is that 1/3 of people either don't know what the fiscal cliff is, or that they're none too smart....

    November 26, 2012 08:28 am at 8:28 am |
  5. Duke5343

    Blame the Repubs if we go over the Cliff – typical of my stupid fellow americans – Dems had control since 2006 until 2010, Reid has NOT made a budget for near 4 years, Obama rasies debt $5.5 Trillion so now we blame on Repbs who want fisical responsiblilty and Dems want to keep spednign

    November 26, 2012 08:30 am at 8:30 am |
  6. David Friedman

    Reject Repuglican Stonewalling.
    President Obama won the election.
    Dump the Tea Party in 2014 and 2016.
    Erase Repuglicans from the political map- they are destroying this country.

    November 26, 2012 08:32 am at 8:32 am |
  7. the karl

    So far the word "compromise" has not meant comprimise but a steady increase in both real and potential tax loads. If taxes are increased then the so called compromise will be liberals getting their way again, and we are already the most heavily taxed in the world by any big picture measure; and that is before adding the hidden potential taxes of inflation that must occur due to all the fictitious money printed in the last 4 years and service reductions we will see as we will eventually need to pay off enough of the national debt to bring it within reason and bring our deficit spending down to under 15% from the unsustainable 40% it is now (deficit spending equaling average growth times average inflation can be sound policy, but anything over that is generational theft).

    We do need to simplify the tax code, but most of all we need to not spend more money than we have!

    November 26, 2012 08:34 am at 8:34 am |
  8. infonomics

    "CNN Poll indicates that two-thirds say fiscal cliff poses major problem." OK, so apparently American opinion and implied understanding of the fiscal cliff is important. Yet, when Americans are asked if Direct Democracy will work, they say "no, the masses are too stupid." Well, which is it, do Americans adequately understand governmental affairs or not?

    November 26, 2012 08:35 am at 8:35 am |
  9. John in WNY

    When polled most people want compromise in the general sense, but I'm sure if you listed specific compromises the numbers would be much less.

    My problem with this whole fiscal clif stuff is that the "cuts" that are coming aren't even true cuts in spending and instead of simply reductions in planned spending increases.

    November 26, 2012 08:38 am at 8:38 am |
  10. Sebastian2

    Time to burn those stupid Norquist pledges. He had no business dictating terms to congress anyway....

    November 26, 2012 08:38 am at 8:38 am |
  11. Bob

    If 7 in 10 Americans were really concerned about the fiscal cliff, they would not have reelected Obama.

    November 26, 2012 08:40 am at 8:40 am |
  12. dagooz

    The Republicans are acting like they got a mandate from the voters instead of losing badly. I mean have you heard the people who think they lost because they weren't wacko enough? The problem isn't that they're acting like children (well McCain does need a pacifier, but ...) it's that they haven't figured out the last century happened. Guess the real world of the 21st century is just too scary for them to deal with.

    November 26, 2012 08:41 am at 8:41 am |
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