Somehow, Americans Think Congress Can Do Something in 2014

United Technologies/National Journal Congressional Connection Poll finds that many people see a chance for lawmakers to pass immigration, even gun control.

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 17: The sun begins to rise behind the U.S. Capitol building on the morning after a bipartisan bill was passed by the House and the Senate to reopened the government and raise the debt limit, on October 17, 2013 in Washington, DC. President Obama signed the bill into law, that will fund the government until January 15, 2014 and allow the government to pay bills until February 7, 2014. 
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Scott Bland
Dec. 3, 2013, 5:06 p.m.

Des­pite dis­mal pro­ductiv­ity in 2013 and what looks to be a dis­rupt­ive 2014 cam­paign sea­son, more Amer­ic­ans than not be­lieve Wash­ing­ton can en­act ma­jor le­gis­la­tion next year, even on the most di­vis­ive is­sues.

The latest United Tech­no­lo­gies/Na­tion­al Journ­al Con­gres­sion­al Con­nec­tion Poll found people are op­tim­ist­ic about the odds that Con­gress can pass gun-con­trol and im­mig­ra­tion le­gis­la­tion in 2014. But re­spond­ents were de­cidedly more pess­im­ist­ic about wheth­er Wash­ing­ton could en­act ma­jor fisc­al re­forms.

Those at­ti­tudes stand in stark con­trast to an astound­ing level of grid­lock in Wash­ing­ton this year, which saw the few­est pub­lic laws en­acted since at least 1947, re­cor­ded the first gov­ern­ment shut­down in 17 years, and drove con­gres­sion­al ap­prov­al rat­ings to re­cord lows.

Of all sur­vey re­spond­ents, 56 per­cent said they thought it was “very” or “some­what” likely that Con­gress and the pres­id­ent en­act le­gis­la­tion “cre­at­ing jobs by in­creas­ing fed­er­al spend­ing on in­fra­struc­ture pro­jects like roads and bridges” in 2014, while 39 per­cent see that as “not too likely” or “not at all likely.”

United Technologies/National Journal Congressional Connection Poll graphic showing how likely respondents think Congress will pass certain legislation before the current sessions concludes at the end of 2014. National Journal

An­oth­er ma­jor­ity — 53 per­cent — said they thought it was at least some­what likely Con­gress would pass gun-con­trol le­gis­la­tion re­quir­ing “uni­ver­sal back­ground checks on all gun sales” next year, while 43 per­cent thought it was less likely. A bi­par­tis­an Sen­ate bill that would have man­dated a less strict ex­pan­sion of back­ground checks was blocked in April.

Amer­ic­ans also see im­mig­ra­tion re­form that in­creases bor­der se­cur­ity and provides “a path­way to cit­izen­ship for people in the U.S. il­leg­ally” as more likely to pass than not in 2014, this time by a nar­row plur­al­ity: 49 per­cent of re­spond­ents said such le­gis­la­tion was very or some­what likely to be passed and signed in 2014 while 46 per­cent said it was more un­likely. The Sen­ate passed such a bill in June but the House has not taken ac­tion on com­pre­hens­ive le­gis­la­tion in this Con­gress.

Op­tim­ism on those policy fronts is tempered: In every cat­egory, re­spond­ents who thought ac­tion was “some­what likely” out­numbered those who thought it “very likely.” (Just 17 per­cent of re­spond­ents said in­creased in­fra­struc­ture spend­ing was “very likely” com­pared with 39 per­cent who thought it some­what likely. See the graph­ic for more.)

And those opin­ions are matched by a dis­tinct lack of faith in ac­tion on oth­er fronts: When asked about the chance of Wash­ing­ton ap­prov­ing de­fi­cit-re­duc­tion le­gis­la­tion in 2014, “even if that means rais­ing taxes and cut­ting spend­ing,” 42 per­cent said that was very or some­what likely, while 53 per­cent said it was “not too likely” or “not at all likely.” On the sub­ject of job cre­ation by way of cut­ting taxes and re­du­cing reg­u­la­tion, just 32 per­cent said they thought it was very or some­what likely to hap­pen, while 63 per­cent thought it was more likely not to hap­pen. The Re­pub­lic­an-con­trolled House and the Demo­crat­ic-con­trolled Sen­ate have con­sist­ently failed to come to terms on fisc­al mat­ters so far this year, though sev­er­al bi­par­tis­an groups are cur­rently work­ing on com­prom­ise tax-and-spend­ing meas­ures.

Amer­ic­ans also see re­peal of Pres­id­ent Obama’s health care re­form law as un­likely: 56 per­cent of re­spond­ents thought re­peal was “not too” or “not at all” likely while 39 per­cent thought it was very or some­what likely to hap­pen in 2014. Even Re­pub­lic­an re­spond­ents, whose elec­ted of­fi­cials have made Obama­care re­peal a top pri­or­ity, don’t think that the pres­id­ent’s sig­na­ture law will be re­pealed next year: 57 per­cent of them rated that out­come as “not too likely” or “not at all likely.”

Sev­er­al groups — 18-to-29-year-olds, those mak­ing less than $50,000 per year, and non­whites — demon­strated con­sist­ently high­er ex­pect­a­tions about Wash­ing­ton’s pro­ductiv­ity in 2014, while sev­er­al oth­er groups that tend to be big­ger con­sumers of news, in­clud­ing those with col­lege de­grees and older white re­spond­ents, were col­lect­ively more pess­im­ist­ic about Con­gress’s chances for le­gis­lat­ive ac­com­plish­ment next year.

The pat­terns largely held re­gard­less of those groups’ pref­er­ences about the policies. For ex­ample, just 29 per­cent of whites over 50 think the suc­cess­ful re­peal of Obama­care is at least some­what likely in 2014, com­pared with 39 per­cent of all re­spond­ents, even though a ma­jor­ity of older whites said that they would be pleased to see Obama­care re­pealed (in re­sponse to an­oth­er ques­tion). Mean­while, young­er re­spond­ents were more con­fid­ent in Wash­ing­ton’s abil­ity to act on each policy ques­tion by mar­gins of at least 8 per­cent­age points over the gen­er­al pool of re­spond­ents.

The United Tech­no­lo­gies/Na­tion­al Journ­al Con­gres­sion­al Con­nec­tion Poll, con­duc­ted by Prin­ceton Sur­vey Re­search As­so­ci­ates In­ter­na­tion­al, sur­veyed 1,003 adults by land­line and cell phone from Nov. 21-24. It has a mar­gin of er­ror of plus or minus 3.6 per­cent­age points.

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