Poll: Majority of Americans Say Bag Sequestration

WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 13: U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) (L) listens to Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) (R) during a Conference on the FY2014 Budget Resolution meeting November 13, 2013 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Congressional Budget Office Director Doug Elmendorf briefed the conferees on CBO's budget and economic outlook. 
National Journal
James Oliphant
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James Oliphant
Dec. 9, 2013, 1:59 p.m.

As con­gres­sion­al ne­go­ti­at­ors work to­ward a budget deal to avoid an­oth­er gov­ern­ment shut­down, a ma­jor­ity of Amer­ic­ans ap­pear to want some sort of agree­ment to be struck that would avoid trig­ger­ing an­oth­er round of auto­mat­ic gov­ern­ment budget cuts.

Ac­cord­ing to the most re­cent United Tech­no­lo­gies/Na­tion­al Journ­al Con­gres­sion­al Con­nec­tion Poll, a com­mand­ing ma­jor­ity of those sur­veyed, 61 per­cent, would undo all or some of the auto­mat­ic se­quester cuts, which re­main the law of the land. Just 18 per­cent favored en­act­ing all of the re­quired cuts.

Should Sen. Patty Mur­ray and Rep. Paul Ry­an, who co­chair the budget con­fer­ence com­mit­tee, fail to reach a deal be­fore the end of the week, it’s pos­sible Con­gress will be forced to pass a res­ol­u­tion to fund the gov­ern­ment at the spend­ing levels called for by the se­quester, which sits at $967 bil­lion for the cur­rent fisc­al year. Should they reach a deal, it could fund the gov­ern­ment at a high­er level and re­verse some of the se­quester cuts.

But the pub­lic re­mains di­vided on how to pay for in­creased spend­ing if some of the se­quester cuts are to be avoided. In fact, just 29 per­cent of those who op­pose the auto­mat­ic cuts say that the sav­ings should come from cuts to Medi­care, Medi­caid, and So­cial Se­cur­ity. A sol­id 73 per­cent of those sur­veyed in­stead be­lieve the sav­ings should be se­cured by rais­ing taxes on the wealthy by elim­in­at­ing tax cred­its and de­duc­tions — a strategy that Re­pub­lic­ans have re­jec­ted.

Demo­crats were more likely to sup­port rais­ing taxes on the wealthy to cov­er the cost of restor­ing the se­quester cuts, with 84 per­cent fa­vor­ing such a move. By con­trast, 56 per­cent of Re­pub­lic­ans en­dorsed that idea, but the fact that a ma­jor­ity of Re­pub­lic­an re­spond­ents would fa­vor rais­ing rev­en­ue through elim­in­at­ing tax de­duc­tions and cred­its may come as a sur­prise.

Still, the sav­ings, the pub­lic be­lieves, have to come from some­where. Half of those sur­veyed be­lieve un­do­ing the cuts isn’t worth it if it would grow the fed­er­al budget de­fi­cit, while 46 per­cent said they would be com­fort­able with in­creas­ing the de­fi­cit.

Not sur­pris­ingly, a large por­tion (72 per­cent) of those who fa­vor un­do­ing only the cuts in mil­it­ary spend­ing would bal­ance the books by slash­ing do­mest­ic pro­grams, while 63 per­cent of those who want to see high­er do­mest­ic spend­ing levels would slice even deep­er in­to the de­fense budget.

Twenty-nine per­cent of those sur­veyed said they would undo all of the se­quester cuts, while just 13 per­cent would undo the cuts to the mil­it­ary only. Nine­teen per­cent would undo just the cuts to dis­cre­tion­ary do­mest­ic spend­ing. Re­pub­lic­ans were more likely to want to pre­serve the se­quester cuts in their en­tirety than were Demo­crats (20 per­cent to 13 per­cent). And Demo­crats were far more likely to want to do away with them al­to­geth­er, with 39 per­cent fa­vor­ing that op­tion, com­pared with just 19 per­cent of Re­pub­lic­ans.

Men were more likely than wo­men to sup­port main­tain­ing the se­quester-level spend­ing levels. And un­der­scor­ing the mes­saging chal­lenge for both Demo­crats and Re­pub­lic­ans on the is­sue, al­most one-quarter of those asked about keep­ing the se­quester cuts at cur­rent levels re­spon­ded by say­ing they didn’t know enough to an­swer or simply re­fused to give a re­sponse.

In­ter­views for the United Tech­no­lo­gies/Na­tion­al Journ­al Con­gres­sion­al Con­nec­tion Poll were con­duc­ted by land­line and cell phones with a na­tion­ally rep­res­ent­at­ive sample of 1,002 adults by Prin­ceton Sur­vey Re­search As­so­ci­ates In­ter­na­tion­al from Dec. 5 to Dec. 8. The mar­gin of er­ror for the poll was plus or minus 3.7 per­cent­age points.

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