A plurality of Americans surveyed favor paying for an extension of the payroll-tax cut with a combination of spending cuts and higher taxes on the wealthy, the plan favored by Democrats, according to the latest United Technologies/National Journal Congressional Connection Poll.
Members of a conference committee began meeting this week to hammer out the differences between the two parties on how to pay for extensions of the payroll-tax cut, unemployment benefits, and the Medicare “doc fix.” The short-term deal struck late last year is set to expire at the end of February, and there is little indication that consensus will be easier to find this time around.
While a plurality, 37 percent of those surveyed, said they favor the Democrats’ proposal to pay for the payroll-tax cut extension, the poll found Americans are still fairly divided. Another 23 percent want Congress to pay for the extension by only raising taxes on the wealthy, and 16 percent want only spending cuts. Meanwhile, 11 percent would allow the payroll-tax cut to expire, with wage earners paying more in Social Security taxes as a result. And 13 percent were undecided when offered the four choices.
Poll interviewers informed respondents that Democrats wanted to pay for the payroll-tax cut extension “with a combination of spending cuts and higher taxes on wealthier earners,” while Republicans “want to pay for it with spending cuts alone.” Paying for the extension only with tax increases on the wealthy, and the option of not extending the tax cut were added by interviewers after they read the parties’ respective preferences.
The United Technologies/National Journal Congressional Connection Poll was conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International, which surveyed 1,002 adults by landline and cellular phone Jan. 19-22. The poll has a margin of error of +/- 3.6 percentage points.
Among the Democrats polled, 45 percent favor a combination of spending cuts and higher taxes; 32 percent prefer higher taxes on the wealthy alone; 8 percent want only spending cuts; and 10 percent would not extend the tax cut.
Republicans surveyed lean toward spending cuts, but more than one-third are open to taxes on the wealthy; 32 percent prefer only spending cuts; 27 percent choose the Democratic-backed option of spending cuts and tax increases; 11 percent want just higher taxes; and 13 percent oppose extending the tax cut.
The results among independents closely reflect those of the overall sample: 39 percent prefer a combination of spending cuts and tax increases; 23 percent want only higher taxes on the wealthy; 14 percent are for spending cuts alone; and 12 percent would not extend the payroll-tax cut.
The poll found Americans making less than $50,000 a year more likely to favor the combination of spending cuts and tax increases on the wealthy (33 percent) or only higher taxes (27 percent) than to back the spending-cuts-alone approach (11 percent). Nearly half of those making $50,000 a year or more, 46 percent, favor a combination of spending cuts and tax increases, compared with 22 percent who want only spending cuts and 18 percent who would pay for it only with higher taxes on the wealthy.
The Congressional Connection Poll also queried Americans on which candidate they preferred to deal with Congress next year, President Obama or his best-funded Republican rival, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
A plurality of respondents say they trust Obama more “to set a clear direction for Congress,” with 47 percent choosing the president and 32 percent picking Romney. Another 12 percent say they trust neither man, and 9 percent are undecided.
The results are virtually the same for which candidate they trust more “to encourage bipartisanship in Congress”: 47 percent pick Obama and 33 percent choose Romney, while 11 percent say they trust neither, and 9 percent are undecided.
But in answer to which man “would be able to get more legislation passed by Congress beginning in 2013,” Romney edges in front of the president, 40 percent to 37 percent (7 percent say they would achieve the same amount, and 15 percent are undecided). Among independents, Romney tops Obama, 39 percent to 35 percent.
There is also a striking racial divide on this question: Whites are significantly more likely to think Romney would get more legislation passed than Obama, while nonwhites think Obama would be more effective in getting legislation passed.
This article appears in the Jan. 25, 2012, edition of National Journal Daily.