Nearly two-thirds of Americans, 65%, believe President Barack Obama will make a sincere effort to work with the Republicans in Congress to find mutually acceptable solutions to the nation’s problems.
A majority, 57%, also expect the Democrats in Congress to try to work with the opposing party’s leaders, but fewer than half, 48%, say the same of the Republicans in Congress.
Confidence in Obama to seek bipartisan solutions in the Nov. 9-12 USA Today/Gallup poll is similar to where it stood in November 2010, two years into Obama’s term and after Republicans won control of the House of Representatives in the midterm elections, but is down from a lofty 80% in 2008. Confidence in the two major parties in Congress is up slightly from 2010; however, given the Republicans’ sharp drop on this measure between 2008 and 2010, they still lag behind the Democrats.
Vast Majority of U.S. Democrats Say Their Leaders Will Work With GOP
Democrats are nearly unanimous in believing Obama will try earnestly to work with the Republicans (98% say he will), and nearly as many (89%) are confident the Democrats in Congress will do the same.
By contrast, less than two-thirds of Republicans (64%) believe the Republicans in Congress will make a sincere effort to work with Obama and the Democrats in Congress.
Republicans’ subdued outlook for their own party leaders’ bipartisanship may be more of a wish than a criticism — with some rank-and-file Republicans preferring that their leaders oppose Obama’s legislative agenda rather than seek compromise. By the same token, the greater willingness of Democrats than Republicans to believe the opposing party will seek bipartisan solutions (38% vs. 27%) may reflect the former’s hopes that the Republicans will bend in the coming year.
Despite Democrats’ nearly unanimous belief that their own leaders will reach across the aisle, a different question in the same poll found closer to two-thirds of Democrats saying the country would benefit most if leaders of the two major parties in Washington compromise equally in order to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff. At the same time, as Gallup previously reported, 25% of Democrats say the country would most benefit by having the Republicans compromise more, similar to the percentage of Republicans saying the country would benefit from greater compromise on the part of Democrats (26%).
Overall, two-thirds of Americans say the best outcome for the country would be for both sides to compromise equally in the current negotiations.
Americans are less sure about bipartisan impulses in Washington today than they were four years ago, after Obama’s victory in the 2008 election. However, overall, Americans are slightly more confident now that leaders will seek mutually acceptable solutions than they were after the November 2010 elections establishing the divided government that continues today.
The need to reach a budget compromise before New Year’s, and thus avert automatic spending cuts and tax increases nobody wants, provides an immediate test of whether both sides will live up to Americans’ expectations for bipartisanship. These expectations are highest for Obama, but are also significant for both parties in Congress.
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