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. bestclasseverintheworld

    Put your big-boy pants on already, DC! I swear, Washington DC is eerily similar to a bunch of bickering third graders out at recess. It's business as usual with Congress and the President. They're about as compatible as oil and water. The country will plunge into a serious recession, probably worse than 2008-09 and maybe even a depression if they don't get their act together and soon.

    November 26, 2012 07:44 am at 7:44 am |
  2. just a thought

    It amazes me that 67 percnet worry about the fiscal cliff but less than 50 percent of people voted this past November. The hypocrisy is amusing!!!!

    November 26, 2012 07:44 am at 7:44 am |
  3. Disgusted

    Too bad we can't get the White House to realize it is a major problem. He is using his usual style of leadership – travel and party.

    November 26, 2012 07:45 am at 7:45 am |
  4. peter

    The Tax Brackets were established decades ago. It is time to raise the bar not the percentages, and put a limit on deductions. The highest tax bracket is around 388,350, the lowest 8,700. Taxing anyone who's income is up to just 8,700 for a single filer and/or married jointly at 17,400 is ridiculous, in fact taxing anyone below the poverty level makes the present system flawed and makes no sense. Why not adjust the minimum tax bracket to start at the poverty level 11,170 for one person and 15,300 jointly. In todays economy, with inflation exploding, even that seems ridiculous.
    How can the government justify taxing anyone below the poverty level?
    Beyond that they should look at statistics for medium income, not mean income. What is the average middle class income? How can we sustain of country if the highest bracket is set at just 388,350?
    I know it is much more complicated that this, but we need to start somewhere and be realistic.

    November 26, 2012 07:49 am at 7:49 am |
  5. MIke Ferraro

    This whole "fiscal cliff" deal is a joke! our government has completely lost its way. unfortunately, we are all at the mercy of a few hundred politicians. as we approach 20 trillion in debt and over 100 trillion in unfunded entitlement obligations, it is safe to say there is NO way out. our government cannot tax their way out of this hole. there is not enough money. i dont care what anyone says. it will not work. further, I find it completely illegal and unconstitutional that I will have more money TAKEN from my hard – earned paycheck to pay for their continuing mistakes and out of control spending. say what you want, but it is MY money and my government is stealing from my family. it is also illegal for my government to steal my paycheck dollars to fund the killing of children here and around the world in the name of "the womens right to choose". it is also illegal for the government to steal my hard-earned money to pay for my neighbor's birth control pills, their pensions, and their healthcare. But, all that said, my voice means nothing. this country is done. it is only a matter of time till it falls to another nation. the greed and incompetance of our elected officials has destroyed our great country. this argument now that they need more "revenue" is ludicrous!! REVENUE? please! the american public is foolish to think that this softer, kinder word for TAXES is the answer to our problems. as we continute down the road to self-distruction, i hope to find some sense of peace that God will protect my family and keep them from the physical pain that is coming their way-fast!! God have mercy on us. We have failed and turned from you. We now get what we clearly deserve.

    November 26, 2012 07:51 am at 7:51 am |
  6. fryuujin

    my hero, Grover keeps making the GOP look like they only care about the rich (which is true). In so, he drags them down as a party. soon they will be just a relic with no power. long live Grover the puppet master of the dolts

    November 26, 2012 07:53 am at 7:53 am |
  7. TWS

    I can't let this one go without stating the obvious. If our country were a private company and the company "officials" had gotten us into the financial mis-management mess we are in, they would ALL be fired and more competent and efficient people would be hired in their place..... Too bad all this media blitz regarding the "fiscal cliff" hasn't come about till AFTER the election..... Those in Washington that have taken this country to the brink of disaster should be held fully accountable to the point of prosecution and inprisonment for mis-management of public funds.

    November 26, 2012 07:56 am at 7:56 am |
  8. Dilip Samuels


    Obama wants the super wealthy for thanksgiving Dinner

    November 26, 2012 07:58 am at 7:58 am |
  9. peter

    According to Forbes the 25% tax bracket for 2012 starts at 38,350, while the 35% tax bracket starts at 178,650. Does anyone else see a problem? In my community one can barely survive on 28,800 a year after federal taxes.

    November 26, 2012 07:59 am at 7:59 am |
  10. nytw

    All this poll means is that 70% of Americans have swallowed Obama's lies.

    November 26, 2012 08:00 am at 8:00 am |
  11. Gurgyl

    Make GOP idiots swallow the medicine and cure. Or else remove all these 230 idiots from CONGRESS in 2014. Period.

    November 26, 2012 08:00 am at 8:00 am |
  12. trex

    ...........Soooooooooo, if you truly believe this............when did YOU contact your Congressman and Senators...?...................................or are ya just LAZY....................

    November 26, 2012 08:04 am at 8:04 am |
  13. Chuk

    As bad as it sounds, it's probably best for the President to allow the fiscal cliff happen, if Republicans still didn't get the message of the elections. I will love to see Norquist take responsibility for what he has been advocating for years. I'd like him to explain it the American people how their lives are better when they go over the fiscal cliff with massive job losses rather than solving the problem slowly as they've been doing.
    Norquist needs to have his a** handed to him. Either he capitulates and allow his followers do the right thing for the country or he takes them over the cliff and takes the responsibility for the chaos.
    The question is: can Norquist take the heat? He can't just do stuff like this and take no responsibility.

    November 26, 2012 08:04 am at 8:04 am |
  14. bill stapp

    1. I will take the tax pledge.

    2. I will continue to spend money for a decade or two.

    3. I will suddenly see that other politicians (not leaders) have spent too much, but I will save the country by breaking my pledge.

    4. I will blame somebody else and then get re-elected in a few years when people have forgotten that the money the government spends is money that it raises by either taxing or borrowing.

    November 26, 2012 08:05 am at 8:05 am |
  15. Rozznitz

    Hmmmm.....I've seen secession in the news by the, er, Conservatives. Then there is the demand for a Watergate style inquiry into the death of our Ambassador by the, um, Conservatives and the hot air over next Secretary of State. Then there's Romney statement that Obama won because he bought the, I can see Republicans are REALLY concerned about the fiscal cliff. Yep – the Republicans want us to avoid doing our homework and reading ACTUAL history to understand this issue. And it is about our personal finances for the next generation. And, for me, it is about what I face having to make a Herculean effort to deal with since I am 57, self-employed and female. I served my country in the Navy. I have always paid my debts. I have raised three children, 50 percent of the time as a single Mom and I never accepted one penny of assistance, nor did I apply for any. I have one learning disabled child – I paid for her extra educational expenses myself. And, of course, I am labeled by the Republican Party as one of the "problems" that has morally undermined this country since I am a self-sufficient female (I am sure I will get a buttload of comments on the tone of that sentence – well, I have been in the construction industry for 38 years, and I treat business as business, and I don't disrespect men on the job – I love the work and being outside. As long as you do your job well, I could give a Rats patootee what you believe. If you must hide who you are, you have issues.

    Without reserve, I place the responsibility for our fiscal cliff issue in the lap of the Republican party for entering the first war in our history that was not paid for by the American people. For fighting a war on two fronts, like Hitler. For encouraging citizens to use centuries old banking tricks with off-shore accounts, combined with classic batt-and-switch tactics in Construction and Real Estate. For blatant failure to control Hedge funds/derivatives/exotic money making ventures. You have done well selling snake oil!!

    Entitlement programs – no one can even agree what they are. Research who has used Social Security as leverage to borrow!! As cold as it is, stop allowing illegal immigrants assistance with medical issues and food. Allow the churches do take up the slack here as they USED to do. Trim up Obamacare and find amendments that will make it work better for everyone, then you can get rid of Medicade. Get the massive infrastructure repair projects going and give everyone work, and make rules for collecting unemployment really strict. Legalize pot, and rework the Food and Drug Administration so that Research comes second to cleanliness and quality. Take away the corporate power of Drug Manufacturers so that our doctors will practice real medicine instead of getting rich promoting drugs and drug dependencies. There is not enough room on this page for ideas.

    RAISE TAXES. The people of the United DID make it clear that is what we want.

    November 26, 2012 08:06 am at 8:06 am |
  16. iamcrm

    I remember when the GOP was trying to work with Obama on the healthcare bill...ah, the memories. As Obama said at that time, "the election's over John (McCain), and I won." He didn't compromise...and at that time, more than 60% of the public was outraged (not just asking for compromise, but OUTRAGED at that bill). I find it amusing that NOW, the liberals talk compromise...

    November 26, 2012 08:07 am at 8:07 am |
  17. Leeford

    Republicans should not concern themselves with breaking their Grover Norquist pledge. The Bush Tax are going to expire. That does not equate to them "raising taxes" technically. It just means they are goign to have to lower taxes for as many people as they can with new legislation.

    November 26, 2012 08:10 am at 8:10 am |
  18. popseal

    A PHONEY CRISIS generated by the corruption of thieves who use taxes to buy votes at my expense. CALL ME WHEN THE SECOND AMERICAN REVOLUTION STARTS./////////////

    November 26, 2012 08:10 am at 8:10 am |
  19. Semper Cogitatus

    4 in 10 define that compromise as the Republicans just going along with everything the democrats say.

    Statements like "7 in 10 want compromise are deliberately misleading, they are meant to make readers thing that 7 in 10 want the same thing. There are a few in the middle, 2 or 3 in 10, that actually want compromise, the rest are claiming that having the other side changing to do things their way is "compromise". Very few of those "7 in 10" are actually willing to meet in the middle.

    November 26, 2012 08:10 am at 8:10 am |
  20. Brian

    The frightening thing is 30% of the people say there shouldn't be any compromise.

    November 26, 2012 08:11 am at 8:11 am |
  21. viknat

    No big spending cuts no tax increases. Control spending then talk taxes!

    November 26, 2012 08:16 am at 8:16 am |
  22. nostradomus

    Taxes are the cost of having a civilized society.

    November 26, 2012 08:17 am at 8:17 am |
  23. drjohn

    So raising taxes would harm the economy? Since when do democrats buy into that nonsense?

    November 26, 2012 08:18 am at 8:18 am |
  24. 4JULY1776

    I think the best thing we can do to help our budget deficit is start a NEW spending program that will cost us an additional $2 trillion every 6 years.

    Oh, I forgot, the Dems already did that and Obama-care starts in 2014.

    November 26, 2012 08:22 am at 8:22 am |
  25. Sadie Boyd

    When you look at the problem scenario of who is "unwilling to compromise," all you have to do is look at the resumes of the players. Obama is not the hold out in compromising...he has compromised too much on the healthcare reform, it is so watered down it is hardly effective. It is those hard headed Norquist pledgers. People need to look up Norquist and figure out that he is purposely pushing the shallow minded Republicans into a terrain of terror for the common man in America. He wants a plutocracy and it is plain to see. Paul Ryan should have nothing to say on fiscal matters...I don't know where he got his BA in Economics but his blind faith in kooky Ayn Rand invalidates his position. The republicans need to know that they may be able to control some of the population with their fear tactics and derision, but not all of America.

    November 26, 2012 08:23 am at 8:23 am |
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