Updated at 10:26 a.m. on December 8.
A Gallup poll out today shows that two-thirds of adult Americans support the major elements of President Obama’s deal with Republican leaders on the Bush-era tax cuts – extending tax cuts for everyone for two years as well as unemployment insurance for 13 months.
The ideological breakdown is not perfect. Republican respondents had high support for extending the tax cuts (85 percent) and only moderate support for extending unemployment benefits (43 percent), while Democrats took the opposite track. They had only 52 percent support for extending the tax cuts but 84 percent support for extending unemployment benefits. Combined with high support for both measures from independents, the overall public support is high.
So Obama looks vindicated in his assertion during his press conference on Tuesday that he had public opinion on his side. But his claim that most Americans don’t support extending tax cuts for the wealthy is less clear from Gallup’s trends.
In analyzing Gallup’s data, some news organizations combined the percentage of people who wanted all tax cuts to expire (15 percent) with those who wanted tax cuts to expire for only the wealthy (44 percent) and conclude that 59 percent of people overall favored letting tax cuts for the wealthy expire. And a Bloomberg came out with a poll today that showed 59 percent of respondents favored eliminating tax cuts for the wealthy.
What the polling firm does show is that an extension of the tax cuts for all Americans has been gaining support since the election. On September 10, only 37 percent of people supported extending the cuts for everyone. By December 1, that number had risen to 40 percent (an additional 44 percent wanted to keep the tax cuts but set new limits on how much of the wealthy’s income was eligible for lower rates).
Despite some ambiguity about Americans’ support for the temporary extension of tax cuts for the wealthy, voters may support the overall deal because the national appetite for compromise is high right now. According to the Allstate/National Journal Heartland Monitor poll, a full 70 percent of 1,200 adults surveyed said the Republican victory in midterms meant the party should pursue compromise with Obama – not use its new power to pursue a conservative agenda. Only 25 percent of respondents encouraged that path.