CONGRESS

Poll: Americans Prefer Obama’s Tax Cut Plan

President Barack Obama lays out his plan to extend tax cuts for the middle class, during an announcement from the East Room of the White House in Washington, Monday, July 9, 2012. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)  
National Journal
Steven Shepard
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Steven Shepard
July 9, 2012, 6:03 p.m.

Amer­ic­ans think it is more im­port­ant to ex­tend the Bush-era tax cuts for fam­il­ies earn­ing less than $250,000 a year, as Pres­id­ent Obama pro­posed on Monday, than ex­tend­ing them for all tax­pay­ers, as ad­voc­ated by con­gres­sion­al Re­pub­lic­ans and pre­sumptive GOP pres­id­en­tial can­did­ate Mitt Rom­ney, ac­cord­ing to a new United Tech­no­lo­gies/Na­tion­al Journ­al Con­gres­sion­al Con­nec­tion Poll. The pub­lic also fa­vors Demo­crats’ plan to cre­ate jobs through ad­di­tion­al spend­ing on in­fra­struc­ture and re­tain­ing pub­lic-sec­tor em­ploy­ees over the Re­pub­lic­an plan to cut taxes for busi­nesses.

Presen­ted with a list of five le­gis­lat­ive pri­or­it­ies, Amer­ic­ans con­tin­ue to say that “new fed­er­al spend­ing to try to cre­ate jobs by re­hab­il­it­at­ing pub­lic schools, im­prov­ing roads and mass trans­it, and pre­vent­ing lay­offs of teach­ers, po­lice of­ficers, and oth­er first re­spon­ders” — the spend­ing pro­pos­al offered by the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion and con­gres­sion­al Demo­crats to boost em­ploy­ment and the over­all eco­nomy — is the most im­port­ant thing Con­gress can do be­fore the end of year. But the GOP pro­pos­als, such as busi­ness-tax cuts and re­peal­ing the 2010 health care law, also score fairly well with the pub­lic; roughly half say it is “very im­port­ant” for Con­gress to reach agree­ment on those ini­ti­at­ives be­fore the end of 2012.

The Con­gres­sion­al Con­nec­tion Poll was con­duc­ted by Prin­ceton Sur­vey Re­search As­so­ci­ates In­ter­na­tion­al, which sur­veyed 1,004 adults from Ju­ly 5-8. The poll has a mar­gin of er­ror of plus or minus 3.7 per­cent­age points.

The poll is the latest in a series of na­tion­al sur­veys track­ing the pub­lic’s pri­or­it­ies for Con­gress — and its as­sess­ment of Wash­ing­ton’s per­form­ance — dur­ing most weeks that Con­gress is in ses­sion dur­ing this elec­tion year.

Sev­enty per­cent of re­spond­ents say it is “very im­port­ant” for Con­gress to come to an agree­ment on spend­ing for in­fra­struc­ture and re­tain­ing teach­ers and first re­spon­ders, and a com­bined 87 per­cent say it is “very” or “some­what” im­port­ant. That Demo­crat­ic pro­pos­al scores high­er than the GOP plan — passing “a plan to cre­ate jobs mostly through tax cuts to small and large busi­nesses” — with 52 per­cent say­ing the Re­pub­lic­an ini­ti­at­ive is “very im­port­ant.” But the dif­fer­ence is largely one of in­tens­ity: 29 per­cent say that the GOP plan is “some­what im­port­ant,” mean­ing that the com­bined per­cent­age of Amer­ic­ans who ascribe some im­port­ance to the Re­pub­lic­an pro­pos­al is com­par­able to res­ults for the Demo­crat­ic bill.

With the Bush tax cuts set to ex­pire at the end of the year, 60 per­cent think it is “very im­port­ant” to ex­tend the cuts for fam­il­ies mak­ing less than $250,000, while just 40 per­cent think it is “very im­port­ant” to ex­tend those rates for all tax­pay­ers. When the per­cent­ages are com­bined for those who said each was very or some­what im­port­ant, 68 per­cent place im­port­ance on ex­tend­ing the cuts for all, com­pared with 82 per­cent for just those who make less than $250,000 a year.

Obama on Monday said that ex­tend­ing the cuts for those who earn less than $250,000 achieved the best com­bin­a­tion of stim­u­lus and debt re­duc­tion among avail­able op­tions. “I’m not pro­pos­ing any­thing rad­ic­al here,” Obama said at a White House event. “I just be­lieve that any­body mak­ing over $250,000 a year should go back to the in­come-tax rates we were pay­ing un­der Bill Clin­ton.”

Re­pub­lic­ans, mean­while, have said that fail­ing to ex­tend the cuts for those mak­ing more than $250,000 a year was tan­tamount to a tax hike on small busi­nesses, and would stunt eco­nom­ic growth.

Last month, a Con­gres­sion­al Con­nec­tion Poll found re­spond­ents more will­ing to ex­tend the cuts for those earn­ing less than $250,000 a year than for all Amer­ic­ans.

As the House pre­pares to vote to do so, nearly half of Amer­ic­ans, 49 per­cent, think it is “very im­port­ant” for Con­gress to reach agree­ment on re­peal­ing or do­ing away with “the pres­id­ent’s health care plan,” in­clud­ing 38 per­cent of Demo­crats, while an ad­di­tion­al 14 per­cent say it is “some­what im­port­ant.” A com­bined 32 per­cent think it is “not too im­port­ant” or “not at all im­port­ant” for Con­gress to reach agree­ment on re­peal of the health care law, which was up­held by the Su­preme Court last month.

A ma­jor­ity of Amer­ic­ans in a pre­vi­ous Con­gres­sion­al Con­nec­tion Poll, con­duc­ted in late May and early June, wanted the Court to strike down the con­tro­ver­sial in­di­vidu­al man­date at the heart of the law. The Court found that man­date to be con­sti­tu­tion­al.

Con­gress re­sumes work this week near the depths of its gen­er­al un­pop­ular­ity, the poll also shows. A ma­jor­ity of voters think it is time to give a new per­son a chance as their rep­res­ent­at­ive in Con­gress, while only 35 per­cent think that their rep­res­ent­at­ive de­serves to be reelec­ted. That is slightly worse than the last time that ques­tion was posed by the Con­gres­sion­al Con­nec­tion Poll, in late April, when 38 per­cent of voters thought their mem­ber de­served reelec­tion. Now, Demo­crats (43 per­cent) and Re­pub­lic­ans (38 per­cent) are al­most equally likely to say they fa­vor reelect­ing their mem­ber of Con­gress, but only 26 per­cent of in­de­pend­ents agree.

Just 28 per­cent of voters would like to see most mem­bers reelec­ted, re­gard­less of their opin­ion of their rep­res­ent­at­ive, slightly great­er than a Pew Re­search Cen­ter sur­vey from last Decem­ber, which pegged that fig­ure at 20 per­cent. Sixty-one per­cent of voters, in­clud­ing fully two-thirds of in­de­pend­ents, would not like to see most cur­rent rep­res­ent­at­ives reelec­ted. But the latest poll res­ult is still worse than his­tor­ic­al trends from Pew, which showed sup­port for reelect­ing most mem­bers in the wave elec­tions of 2006 and 2010 in the low- to mid-30s.

The poll in­cluded 787 re­gistered voters, and res­ults among this and oth­er sub­groups carry slightly high­er mar­gins of er­ror.

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