Debt Polling Roundup: What Does the Country Want?

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Will there be a deal? Will the U.S. default if there isn't one? Who to trust in Washington? And what do the people say?

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America is slated to default on its debt on Aug. 2 unless Congress agrees to raise the debt ceiling, and Republicans and Democrats are having trouble agreeing on a deal to forestall that outcome. Everyone seems to agree that, in a perfect world, we'd cut some spending. Nobody likes the trillion-dollar deficits incurred in each of the last two years. Beyond that, there seems to be little agreement. President Obama and Congress could decide to:

  • lower the deficit by $4 trillion over 10 years, including about $1 trillion in revenue raised by tightening the corporate tax code and raising taxes on higher incomes, as Obama called for recently
  • cut about $2 trillion, without raising taxes on anyone, as House Speaker John Boehner proposed two weeks ago
  • let Obama raise the debt ceiling without Congress's approval, but create a deficit-reduction commission to propose a package of cuts. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell favor this plan.
  • lower the deficit by $3.7 trillion, including $1 trillion in added tax revenue from corporations. This is the "Gang of Six" plan unveiled this week by a bipartisan group of senators
  • punt, raising the debt limit temporarily and ensuring that the debate continues

Different sides have very different opinions. House Democrats insist Social Security and Medicare benefits are untouchable, but Obama is open to cuts. House Republicans insist there be no raising taxes of any sort.

So, what does the public think about all this? Below, a look at the last four major polls on the matter, all released in the last week, from CBS, ABC/Washington Post, USA Today/Gallup, and the Pew Research Center:

RAISE THE DEBT LIMIT AT ALL?

Public's answer: Leaning toward No

  • CBS: 49 percent say we should not raise the debt ceiling, 46 percent say we should
  • USA Today/Gallup: 55 percent say they are more concerned that the government would raise the debt ceiling without plans for major spending cuts, 35 percent say they are more concerned that the government would not raise the debt ceiling and an economic crisis would result

CUT OR RAISE TAXES?

Public's answer: Both

  • CBS: 66 percent say both cut and raise taxes, 28 percent say only cut spending, three percent say only raise taxes
  • ABC/Washington Post: 62 percent say both cut and raise taxes, 32 percent say only cut spending, 4 percent say only raise taxes

WHO TO TRUST?

Public's answer: Obama

  • ABC News/Washington Post: 48 percent trusts Obama, 39 percent trusts House Republicans
  • CBS: 43 percent approve of Obama's handling of negotiations, 31 percent approve of Democrats in Congress, 21 percent approve of Republicans in Congress
  • USA Today/Gallup: 72 percent say Republicans are putting the political interests ahead of the country's, 65 percent say Democrats in Congress are putting their political interests ahead of the country's, 49 percent say Obama is putting his political interests ahead of the country's

WHAT WILL HAPPEN IF WE DON'T RAISE THE LIMIT?

Public's answer: It's bad for the economy

  • CBS: 51 percent say the U.S. probably will not default on its debt if the limit isn't raised, 38 percent say it probably will
  • USA Today/Gallup: 56 percent say an economic crisis will result if an agreement is not reached by Aug. 2, 40 percent say it will not
  • CBS: 45 percent say it is very likely that the economy and stock market will take a severe downturn if the debt limit isn't raised, 37 say it is somewhat likely, and 13 percent say it is not very likely
  • Pew Research Center: 40 percent say it's essential to raise the debt limit to avoid an economic crisis, 39 percent say we can go past Aug. 2 without major problems
  • USA Today/Gallup: 45 percent say the government will have to delay Social Security/Medicare payments if an agreement is not reached by Aug. 2, 49 percent say it will not
  • CBS: 27 percent say it is very likely that benefits will stop for veterans and Social Security/Medicare recipients, 27 percent say it is somewhat likely, and 44 percent say it is very likely
  • CBS: 40 percent say Obama accurately describes the consequences of not raising the debt limit, 36 percent say he makes things sound worse, 14 percent say he makes things sound better

WILL THEY MAKE A DEAL?

Public's answer: Yes

  • CBS: 66 percent say Obama and Republicans probably will reach agreement by Aug. 2, 31 percent say they probably won't
  • USA Today/Gallup: 49 say an agreement will be reached by Aug. 2, 47 percent say it will not

WHO TO BLAME IF THERE'S NO DEAL?

Public's answer: Republicans

  • CBS: 49 percent say they blame Republicans in Congress more for the current budget standoff, 29 percent say they blame Obama more

Image credit: Larry Downing/Reuters

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Chris Good is a political reporter for ABC News. He was previously an associate editor at The Atlantic and a reporter for The Hill.

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