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. memo2

    No I don't understand, I'm trying to understand how we get here, to little to late to fix this economy with taxes ?
    If they really want to help, why not a temporary flat tax ?, they can't the question is why don't want it.

    November 26, 2012 07:08 am at 7:08 am |
  2. SugarKube

    No matter what happens we still need to pay off th 5.5 trillion additional debt the 1st Obama term gave us.

    November 26, 2012 07:08 am at 7:08 am |
  3. Mike

    7 in 10 Huffington Post readers? Those people think that place, and this one, are legitimate news sources. The only decision they are truly equipped to make is which pair of mismatched socks to wear today . . .

    November 26, 2012 07:11 am at 7:11 am |
  4. Znod

    The Repubs want to use tax reform to increase tax revenue without rate increases. They ignore that the fact that they would be unable to keep many families with lower incomes including many of those with small businesses from becoming worse off under this approach. They don't understand that tax reform also requires their abhorred wealth redistribution. And, they fail to understand that changes in families' average tax rates occur when deductions, credits, etc. are eliminated. They are silent on what "tax loopholes" would be used in accomplishing their goal. Would they, e.g., eliminate the home interest, real estate taxes, or charitable deductions? In brief, how would they changes the "loopholes" so that those less able to pay are at least unaffected? Perhaps they want our citizens in the dark about the "loopholes" and the wealth-redistribution effects of their plan. And, it is lunacy to think that we could revise the tax code properly before the fiscal cliff arrives. The Repubs need to behave consistently with what the American people want and common sense dictates–compromise including expenditure reduction and increased tax revenues sourced by the better able to pay.

    November 26, 2012 07:13 am at 7:13 am |
  5. Grey

    Funny story. A book titled "Burning Money" described this exact scenario coming to fruition if the goverment did not get its spending under control. The funny part of the story was that it was published by Peter Grace of the Grace Commission, under Reagan in 1984 after the original congressional document was rejected by congress in 1983. Who knew that the business leaders involved in its research and writing at the time could have been so right? It's almost like they were prophets on that whole "spend more than you take in, and pretty soon you're broke".

    November 26, 2012 07:16 am at 7:16 am |
  6. Old-skool Konservative

    What the heck? Let's try it! Let them all expire!

    November 26, 2012 07:17 am at 7:17 am |
  7. TommytheT

    Please some one, any one, tell us what Spending cuts are being offered by the POTUS or Mr Reid. All we hear are more tax money, more tax money, more tax money....yet I don't recall the POTUS mention even in passing what spending he will propose cutting. Let's face it folks, if we give Washington one more penny from tax increase w/o seeing major spending cuts, than we are the fools they all count on us being.

    November 26, 2012 07:20 am at 7:20 am |
  8. Notadolt

    Michigan Republicans compromised by imposing high new taxes on retired pensioners while giving new tax breaks to the rich...

    November 26, 2012 07:21 am at 7:21 am |
  9. Tim

    These kinds of polls are nonsense. What they completely overlook is that everyone wants compromise – from the other party. This does nothing to help the situation and work toward a solution.

    November 26, 2012 07:22 am at 7:22 am |
  10. William Johnson

    I am proud of my Republican representatives, who have resisted the attempts to destroy this Country by the socialists, or at least turn it into a third world country.

    November 26, 2012 07:22 am at 7:22 am |
  11. .

    Socialism now!

    November 26, 2012 07:27 am at 7:27 am |
  12. skytag

    "Two-thirds of people questioned in a CNN/ORC International survey 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"

    The sad thing is that means one-third don't have a clue. Nno form of government based on democracy can function as intended unless the electorate is educated and informed about issues. Our biggest single problem as a country is that we don't have such an electorate.

    November 26, 2012 07:27 am at 7:27 am |
  13. Charlie

    What we are going to end up with is higher taxes and little or no cuts in spending. The deficit will continue to escalate. The politicians will spend $2 for every $1 in tax increases. It is only a matter of time before the whole financial situation completely implodes.

    November 26, 2012 07:28 am at 7:28 am |
  14. Meki60

    Obama the charlatan at his best.

    November 26, 2012 07:28 am at 7:28 am |
  15. Meki60

    President Garbage rides again.

    November 26, 2012 07:29 am at 7:29 am |
  16. SMMcMahon

    The real moochers are millionaires and billionaires who pay a lower tax rate than working people and large corporations that earn billions in profit and pay little or no tax.

    The real moochers are corporations, Romney and other wealthy individuals who offshore their money to avoid paying their fair share of taxes ($100 billion is lost annually).

    The real moochers are corporations that send jobs overseas and receive $58 billion annually in tax breaks.

    The real moochers are profitable oil, gas and coal companies that receive $11 billion annually in tax breaks and subsidies.

    The real moochers are Wall Street and the big banks that received a $700 billion bailout; and large financial institutions, multinational corporations, and some of the wealthiest individuals that received $16 trillion in near-zero interest Fed loans.

    The real moochers are Big Pharma, Big Agra and other industries that receive billions in subsidies.

    The real moochers are Romney and other private equity managers that benefit from the carried interest loophole.

    Top ten interests funding Romney/Ryan's campaign: securities/investment, insurance, health professionals, pharmaceuticals/health products, real estate, lawyers/law firms, manufacturing/distributing, finance, banks/credit, and oil/gas.

    November 26, 2012 07:29 am at 7:29 am |
  17. Loyalright

    Let's follow the lead of Senator Reid when he stated that he would not work with Mitt Romney if he became President. He would block all legislation to stop his agenda. What a guy!

    November 26, 2012 07:31 am at 7:31 am |
  18. Pete McM

    Yeah, they want compromise right up until they realize "I have to give up what?" Then it's back too, "let the other person pay. As in, I shouldn't have to give up cuts in SS, but go ahead and increase taxes on those making over a certain dollar amount..

    November 26, 2012 07:35 am at 7:35 am |
  19. Al

    Oh really????? Why are we here at this juncture? Your president is the answer. His out of control spending contiunes. HE needs to compromise. What a joke !!!!!!

    November 26, 2012 07:38 am at 7:38 am |
  20. Al

    Obama is the problem!!!

    November 26, 2012 07:39 am at 7:39 am |
  21. leftover

    The 'fiscal cliff" is a fiction. It doesn't exist. It's fear mongering to connive the American people into sacrificing Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid without thinking about outrageous military spending, hundreds of billions in government subsidies to private health insurance companies starting next year and the trillions spent on continuing corporate entitlements and bailouts.

    What we need is JOBS…first and foremost…a Single Payer healthcare system, (H.R. 676...which includes tax reform), that saves money instead of wasting it, an end to corporate entitlements and criminal immunity and an end to endless useless wars…and the corrupt politicians who profit from them.

    November 26, 2012 07:39 am at 7:39 am |
  22. Eugene9

    Here is a Y2K "stunt" imposed on the US by Erskine-Bowles type politicians who are not honest and courageous and far-sighted enough to demand that such changes as raising the cap on Social Security taxes for those making above $100K. Bernie Sanders has it right. The "fiscal cliff" threat is just a sneaky way to give leverage to those who we just voted out of office and scare politicians into cutting the social services that should not be cut while ignoring the fat that really needs trimming.

    November 26, 2012 07:40 am at 7:40 am |
  23. Al

    CNN is a puppet of ther Obama dictatorship. NOT TO BE TRUSTED !!!!! Especially your polls.

    November 26, 2012 07:40 am at 7:40 am |
  24. rude

    Ensuring he's a "one term" president and hoping he "fails" will come back to haunt them.
    I hope they start working for America again instead of party.

    November 26, 2012 07:42 am at 7:42 am |
  25. TechFem

    Was the Alternative Tax meant for the rich? If you consider making over $33, 000 for a single person or $48,000 being rich, then it's effective. Get ready cause if congress and the president don't figure it out, your return for next year will be seriously reduced. It also takes away the ability to write off your state taxes from your federal return.

    Happy thoughts indeed.

    November 26, 2012 07:43 am at 7:43 am |
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