Poll: Americans see debt deal as bad for nation

McClatchy NewspapersAugust 8, 2011 

WASHINGTON — It's not just the stock markets. The marketplace of public opinion also is turning thumbs down on the debt-ceiling deal, according to a new McClatchy-Marist Poll.

The poll found that Americans think the deal is bad for the country, bad for members of Congress who voted for it and bad for the poor, the middle class and the elderly. Americans think that the only ones whom the deal treated fairly were the wealthy and corporations.

That decidedly negative reaction comes at the same time that the American mood has sunk to its lowest point in more than decade.

"They're negative on the debt deal, negative on the outcome, negative on the process," said Lee Miringoff, the director of the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion in New York, which conducted the survey.

The poll was conducted immediately after the debt deal reached among President Barack Obama, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives and the Democratic-controlled Senate. The deal averted a financial crisis by increasing the legal limit for short-term borrowing to allow the government to pay debts already incurred, while calling for longer-term cuts in projected federal budget deficits.

By 47-43 percent, voters said they thought the deal was bad for the country.

Democrats were the only ones who thought it was good for the country, by 56-34 percent. Independents thought it was bad for the country by 49-40, and Republicans by 63-31.

At the same time, voters said by 79-14 percent that the debt debate left them less confident in Washington.

They think the deal treated these segments of society unfairly:

  • By 65-27 percent, they think it treated the elderly unfairly. That belief was found almost evenly across party lines.
  • By 63-29, they think it treated the poor unfairly. Independents felt the strongest, 69-26.
  • By 61-30, they think it treated the middle class unfairly. Republicans felt the strongest, 66-27.
Conversely, voters think the deal treated others well:
  • By 57-33, they think that those with high incomes were treated fairly. Democrats felt that the most, 70-23; Republicans the least, 45-43.
  • By 56-31, voters think the pact treated corporate America well.
The generally bad reaction bodes ill for members of Congress who voted for the deal, at least as of now.

Voters say by 41-36 percent that they're less likely, rather than more likely, to vote for a congressional candidate who supported the agreement that raised the debt ceiling. Another 11 percent said it would make no difference to their votes; 12 percent were unsure.

Democrats are favorable, saying they're more likely to vote for debt ceiling supporters rather than less likely by 47-30. Nine percent said it would make no difference and 14 percent were unsure.

Independents are less likely to vote for debt ceiling supporters by 44-34 percent, with 11 percent saying it would make no difference and 10 percent unsure.

Republicans say by 53-24 that they're less likely to vote for debt deal supporters. Another 13 percent said it would make no difference and 10 percent were unsure.

Underscoring it all, Americans think by 70-21 percent that the country's headed in the wrong direction, the worst finding since Marist started asking the question at the start of the George W. Bush presidency in January 2001.

The bad mood cuts across party lines. Democrats say the country's on the wrong track by 54-37, independents by 78-14 and Republicans by 88-9.

While Republicans already were sour, the mood got noticeably worse among Democrats and independents. The percentage of Democrats who said the country's on the wrong track jumped from 37 percent in June, and the percentage of independents rose from 62 percent.

Looking forward, Americans have clear views about what they want in new rounds of deficits cuts, as they have since the debate started:

  • By 69-28, voters support raising taxes on people with annual incomes of more than $250,000.
  • By 62-32 they support eliminating subsidies to oil and gas companies.
  • By 84-14 they oppose cuts in Medicare or Social Security.
  • By 50-46, they support cutting defense spending.
  • By 73-23 they oppose cutting Medicaid and entitlements.

METHODOLOGY:

This survey of 1,000 adults was conducted last Tuesday through Thursday. People 18 and older who live in the continental United States were interviewed by telephone. Telephone numbers were selected based on a list of exchanges from throughout the nation. The exchanges were selected to ensure that each region was represented in proportion to its population.

To increase coverage, this land-line sample was supplemented by respondents reached through random dialing of cell phone numbers. The two samples then were combined. Results are statistically significant within plus or minus 3.0 percentage points. There are 807 registered voters. The results for this subset are statistically significant within plus or minus 3.5 percentage points. The error margin increases for cross-tabulations.

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McClatchy Newspapers 2011

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