More Americans trust President Obama than congressional Republicans to make the right decisions to bring down the price of gasoline, according to a new poll, although neither side commands a majority.
What’s more, as prices continue to rise and the specter of $5-per-gallon gas for the summer driving season looms over the political landscape, the latest United Technologies/National Journal Congressional Connection Poll shows the public slightly more supportive of the energy priorities of the Democrats and the president than those of the GOP.
Forty-four percent of respondents trust Obama more “to make the right decisions to help bring down the price of gasoline,” versus 32 percent for Republicans in Congress, according to the poll. Only 1 percent said both; 16 percent said neither and 7 percent didn’t know or refused to answer.
Americans put somewhat more stock in the Democrats’ policy of conservation and development of alternative energy sources, such as wind and solar power, than they do in the Republicans’ emphasis on greater domestic production of oil and gas. Fifty percent of respondents said that the Democratic approach “would do more to lower fuel prices,” while 42 percent went with the GOP approach.
It’s worth noting that earlier this winter the Congressional Connection Poll found a substantial majority of Americans favoring construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, which has become a rallying cry for congressional Republicans.
This newest survey plumbed Americans’ views on what is causing the spike in gasoline prices. When asked what the main reason behind the price increase was, some 38 percent laid the blame on “the manipulation of prices by large energy companies.” Twenty-eight percent cited “tension in the Middle East, particularly over Iran and nuclear weapons.” Well down the list were “the policies of President Obama” (14 percent) and “the policies of congressional Republicans” (5 percent).
On another contentious issue in Congress—judicial vacancies—the poll showed a plurality of Americans believes that the backlog is due to Senate Republicans “unreasonably delaying the confirmation process.” Some 44 percent of respondents said that was the cause for the holdup, while 36 percent said that Senate Republicans were “just doing their constitutional duty.” A full 17 percent of adults responding to the survey didn’t know or refused to answer and 4 percent said they haven’t heard or read about the delays. On Monday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said he would take full advantage of his powers to try to break the logjam of judicial nominations.
As the U.S. Postal Service continues to hemorrhage money, a significant majority of survey respondents said that they were willing to forgo Saturday mail delivery in order to save money. But the public appears to be much more wary of paying more for a postage stamp.
Congress is wrestling with the fallout from the Postal Service’s budget shortfalls. The USPS, which is supposed to operate without taxpayer dollars, has been borrowing heavily from the Treasury and will bump up against its $15 billion cap this year. Members of Congress were outraged earlier this year when the postmaster general announced a cost-saving plan that involved everything from closing 223 mail-sorting facilities to ending Saturday delivery.
The poll showed a solid 63 percent of respondents in favor of ending Saturday mail delivery “as a way for the Postal Service to save money.” Thirty-two percent opposed changing the historic delivery schedule.
A majority who responded to the poll were unwilling to shell out more for a stamp or other postage fees in order to guarantee the continuation of Saturday delivery. Some 42 percent were willing to pay more, but 56 percent were not.
Congress can’t directly stop the postmaster general from implementing his recommendations, but the mere threat of passing measures that could delay or thwart the proposed cuts has made this a hot topic on the Hill, where members of both parties have decried the proposed cuts. The protests have been especially loud from representatives of rural areas, whose constituents would have to travel longer distances for postal services if the cutbacks are implemented.
The poll showed some interesting divides among the respondents on the Postal Service issue. Fifty percent of black non-Hispanics supported the end of Saturday delivery to save money, while 47 percent opposed the idea. Black non-Hispanics were also willing to support a hike in postal rates to preserve Saturday delivery. Support for ending Saturday delivery to save money was slightly weaker in the Midwest and among those earning less than $50,000 annually. White college graduates were most supportive of ending Saturday delivery, with nearly 80 percent backing such a move.
The United Technologies/National Journal Congressional Connection Poll was conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International, which surveyed 1,005 adults by landline and cellular phone March 8-11. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.6 percentage points.
This article appears in the March 13, 2012, edition of National Journal Daily.