Power Centers

Poll: Rising Percentage Say Default Would Harm Economy

The tide of voter sentiment continues to shift toward Washington policymakers seeking a debt-ceiling compromise and away from the so far seemingly inflexible position of House Republicans.

A new Washington Post-ABC News poll adds to the sense that voters, who once seemed to not want the U.S. debt ceiling raised, have changed their minds in recent days.

For instance, the percentage of those who say that not raising the debt ceiling would have a serious impact on the U.S. economy rose to 82 percent of those polled in mid-July compared with 71 percent who said the same in early June.

This should be a caution flag for any politicians inclined to take a cavalier attitude toward a default. That isn't where the public is right now, if it ever was. Indeed, the public appears to be trending towards believing the warnings about economic harm.

Also, when asked if they thought the Republican congressional leadership was "willing enough to compromise" or not with Obama, 77 percent of respondents said GOP leaders weren't willing enough. That compared with 71 percent who responded similarly in March.

But all was not necessarily positive for Obama, either. For instance, 58 percent of respondents said that he wasn't willing enough either to compromise with Republicans, six percentage points higher than in March.

Interestingly, a majority of those polled have consistently said for many months that they would prefer deficits to be closed through a combination of spending cuts and tax increases. The percentage in the mid-July polling was 62 percent. Last December it was 60 percent.

Republicans have argued that the American people don't want tax increases as part of the solution. That absolutist position isn't reflected in the Washington Post-ABC News or other polls.

It should be said, however, that voters may be hot on the idea of higher taxes because they see those additional tax revenues being paid by someone else, not themselves.

The poll indicated that 72 percent favored the Obama position of raising taxes on those with annual income of $250,000 or more.

Another interesting result is that if there were a default, both Obama and congressional Republicans would be blamed, with the GOP getting somewhat more blame than the president.

The Post-ABC polls indicated that 36 percent of respondents would blame the president while 42 percent would hold Republicans responsible.

The poll also indicated how painful deficit reduction will be for Democrats. For instance, any plan that would significantly reduce federal government spending will need to include entitlement reform according to virtually all the experts.

But most of the public seems opposed to the kind of changes in Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security the experts say are necessary to put those programs on sustainable paths.

Most respondents opposed raising the age for Medicare eligibility age, changing how Social Security benefits are calculated to payout less to beneficiaries and slow the program's overall expenditures or Medicaid cuts.

The Post-ABC poll was released after a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll which similarly found that more Americans now backed a debt ceiling increase than opposed it, a reversal.

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