As negotiations on a deal to avert the “fiscal cliff” enter the final three weeks, Republicans face a stark reality: The American public continues siding with President Barack Obama and Democrats on the issues crucial to any potential deal.Polls taken over the past month have continually shown that a post-election bump for the President, combined with the relative unpopularity of Republicans, gives Obama a lot of leverage in the debate.
Voters overwhelmingly support the key element of Obama’s plan for a deal — raising taxes on incomes above $250,000. They also support blanket entitlement cuts, which is what the GOP wants in a deal. But when asked about specific entitlement reforms, they balk at the options.
Here’s a rundown of the GOP’s public-opinion problem:
- In the past week, voters appear to be moving even more toward a position that favours raising tax rates on incomes above $250,000. A Thursday Quinnipiac poll found the margin at a whopping 65-31. In a new Associated Press/GfK poll, 48 per cent favoured eliminating the Bush-era tax cuts on incomes above $250,000.
- Obama has more cards to play with — because if leaders do fail to reach an agreement, the public overwhelmingly says it will blame Republicans by a 53-27 per cent margin. This underscores what two big conservatives wrote last week — that Republicans are “screwed” because they don’t have much leverage, especially in the court of public opinion.
- What has gone unnoticed in a lot of fiscal-cliff polling is how starkly people come out against any specific entitlement reforms pollsters ask about. For example, in the Quinnipiac poll, people oppose cutting Medicare spending by a 70-25 margin. By a 51-44 margin, they oppose raising the Medicare eligibility age.
- The AP poll shows that voters also “trust” Democrats more on handling Medicare — by an astounding 20-point margin. That’s a stark contrast from June 2011, when the same poll found Democrats with an 8-point advantage.
- By a 49-30 margin, voters also disapprove of changing the way Social Security benefits are calculated, according to the AP poll.
The kicker lies in the difference in approval ratings between Obama and Congressional Republicans. Obama’s approval rating hit an astounding 57 per cent in Friday’s AP survey. Meanwhile, Congress has a 23 per cent approval rating.
Add to that another particularly striking and significant gap in voter approval on the specific issue of the fiscal cliff: