A majority of Americans support efforts to extend the payroll-tax cut despite concerns that an extension of the short-term reduction would increase the federal budget deficit. The public, though, is more divided on other economic issues facing Congress before the end of the year, according to a new United Technologies/National Journal Congressional Connection Poll.
The poll found that voters are seeking middle ground on extending unemployment insurance for those who have lost their jobs. The country is also split on whether regulations adopted by federal agencies hinder business growth, or if restricting regulations hurts consumers and the environment.
The poll is the latest in the Congressional Connection Poll, a series of national surveys that will track the public’s priorities for Congress—and its assessment of Washington’s performance—during most weeks that Congress is in session through 2012.
As the Democratic-controlled Senate and the GOP-led House advance competing plans for extending the payroll-tax reduction, the new poll shows that 58 percent of Americans think Congress should extend the tax cut. Just 32 percent think they should not extend the tax cut.
Respondents were read the following arguments before being asked if Congress should extend the payroll-tax cut: “Supporters say this tax cut gives people more money to spend and helps the economy. Opponents say it increases the federal debt without doing much to help the economy.”
Support for extending the payroll-tax cut—despite concerns about the budget deficit—is broad and bipartisan. Democrats favor an extension, 68 percent to 25 percent. Half of Republicans think Congress should extend the payroll-tax reduction, while 39 percent think they should not. Among independents, 57 percent favor an extension, while a third do not.
Across other subgroups, support for an extension of the tax cut is virtually uniform. Fifty-seven percent of voters making less than $50,000 a year favor an extension, compared to 62 percent of those making $50,000 a year or more. Three in five college graduates favor extending the tax cut, compared to 55 percent of those who never attended college.
The poll did not ask about the varying proposals for extending the payroll-tax cut; the debate over those proposals and their differences has bogged down the legislation.
On other issues facing Congress this year—extending unemployment benefits and restricting the federal government’s ability to regulate businesses—consensus is more elusive.
Respondents to the poll were told that, unless Congress acts, out-of-work Americans would see the duration of their unemployment insurance reduced from 99 weeks to 26 weeks. Then they were asked whether Congress should “take action to keep unemployment benefits at 99 weeks, limit unemployment benefits to 26 weeks, or set a new limit for unemployment benefits between 26 and 99 weeks.”