Poll: Deficit is essential issue for Congress to tackle
February 21st, 2013
12:01 AM ET
10 years ago

Poll: Deficit is essential issue for Congress to tackle

Washington (CNN) - Do-nothing Congresses need not apply: a majority of Americans want something done on the federal deficit this year, an opportunity lawmakers will have when they return from their vacation.

Seven of 10 surveyed in a new Pew Research and USA Today poll released Thursday said major legislation on the deficit is the most important issue on Congress' plate, topping immigration, gun legislation and other issues.

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The survey came out about a week before forced federal spending cuts are set to trigger automatically, slashing $85 billion in spending by federal agencies over the next seven months.

Americans are also opinionated on how deficit reduction should be achieved.

Three quarters - 76% - want a combination of spending cuts and tax increases, and 73% say the effort should include more spending cuts than tax increases. Two in 10 say only spending cuts should be included in a package. President Barack Obama describes his plan for spending cuts and tax increases as a balanced approach, while congressional Republicans say the economy cannot handle more tax increases. The poll showed 88% of Republicans said the solution should either be entirely or mostly through spending cuts.

Obama appears to have the upper edge in the court of public opinion. Should the spending cuts go into effect, 49% said Republicans in Congress would take the blame and 31% said the blame would rest with Obama.

A separate survey released by Bloomberg late Wednesday similarly found Republicans were more to blame than Obama for the dysfunction in Washington by a 43% to 34% margin. It showed Obama held a 55% approval rating, the same number shown in a CNN/ORC poll released before his inauguration to a second term.

While the March 1 deadline approaches fast, the Pew and USA Today poll says the public is largely unaware of the looming threat. Three in 10 know nothing of the forced spending cuts, 43% know a little of it and 27% know a lot about it.

If the deadline arrives without a deal, 49% said the cuts should be delayed and 40% said the cuts should go into effect. The Obama administration said this month the cuts to defense spending would be about 13% and to other programs, about 9%. Entitlement programs such as Medicare and Social Security are sheltered from the cuts.

Deficit reduction topped the list of key priorities, according to the poll, which showed only 51% saw immigration legislation as essential. Gun legislation was rated essential by 46%, though Democrats thought it more important – 71% - than did Republicans – 19% - by a wide margin.

On immigration, the Pew and USA today said their polling showed an increasing number of Americans favored both increasing enforcement and creating a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. Forty-seven percent supported a proposal including both aspects, while a quarter of Americans favored strengthened enforcement alone. Another quarter wanted a path to citizenship alone.

The Bloomberg survey found 35% favored a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants without a criminal record who pay taxes, learn English and pay a fine. Eighteen percent said a path to citizenship or legal status should wait for improvements in border security.

The Pew and USA Today poll included 1,504 adults contacted by telephone between February 13-18 and had a sampling error of plus or minus 2.9 percentage points. The Bloomberg survey included 1,003 adults reached by phone between February 15 and 18, and had a sampling error of plus or minus 3.1 points.

Filed under: Budget • Deficit • Polls
soundoff (6 Responses)
  1. red riches

    I voted for Obama, but I have to say I haven't been too happy with his deficit reduction plan. While i'm not intrinsically opposed to more tax increases, I feel like that's all he's been pushing to address the deficit. Even if you want tax increases as part of a deficit reduction plan, Obama has to realize that to get out of the deficit is mainly going to be acheived through spending cuts because you can only gain so much revenue by increasing taxes.

    February 21, 2013 12:18 am at 12:18 am |
  2. yanni

    GOP need to stop fighting one man and work for the American people.

    February 21, 2013 12:23 am at 12:23 am |
  3. AK_steve

    Only 20% of Americans think that spending cuts alone is the proper approach to reducing the deficit. So who the heck is the GOP representing?

    They are holding the country hostage over ideology. They seem willing to destroy the countries economy in order to make political points against Obama. And even when the poles show that most Americans are on to their game, they still seem determined to take the country instead of compromise.

    Unfortunately, no one is surprise and their party before people tactics.

    February 21, 2013 01:51 am at 1:51 am |
  4. Jerry

    Duh! Who are you going to blame?! At which desk does the $ stop?! The constant excuses and the blame game must stop. Grandiose speeches and props WILL NOT improve the nation's situation.

    Mr. President, GET SERIOUS! Lead, if not; get out of the way. There are numerous Democrats (excluding Senile Reed and Bobble Head Pelosi, Weiner wannabe Schultz, etc., etc.) and Republicans that are REALLY willing to tackle the nation's issues in a REAL partisan and grown up manner. You and your equally clueless/vindictive administration are preventing this efforts from going "FORWARD"!!!

    OK, "Benders Forward", your turn!

    February 21, 2013 06:44 am at 6:44 am |
  5. Name lynn

    The people is waiiting on congress an obama in making decisions about the federal cuts an about the jobs. The people knowing obama is not letting them down with their jobs.

    February 21, 2013 07:28 am at 7:28 am |
  6. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    There ard too many in Congress that are unwilling to let the majority rule. There needs to be thoughts of the country first because many too many are ideologues that only think their ideas are good and discount everyone else.

    February 21, 2013 07:37 am at 7:37 am |