Bob Unruh joined WND in 2006 after nearly three decades with the Associated Press, as well as several Upper Midwest newspapers, where he covered everything from legislative battles and sports to tornadoes and homicidal survivalists. He is also a photographer whose scenic work has been used commercially.More ↓Less ↑
Editor’s note: This is another in a series of “WND/WENZEL POLLS” conducted exclusively for WND by the public-opinion research and media consulting company Wenzel Strategies.
A new scientific poll indicates that Americans by significant numbers want Washington to stop spending away the future, and a stunning 4 in 10 believe if the debt ceiling isn’t raised, President Obama will punish the public with the way he allocates the hundreds of billions of dollars available.
The July 16-18 poll contacted 1,096 respondents through a telephone survey. The Wenzel Strategies project carries a margin of error of 2.93 percent.
It showed that 54.4 percent of the respondents believe the nation’s fiscal situation should be fixed with cuts in government spending, while 21.4 percent say the debt ceiling should be raised so President Obama can borrow and spend more money, and 16.6 percent – led by Democrats – believe the government should raise taxes.
Fritz Wenzel, chief of Wenzel Strategies, said, “As the political argument about U.S. federal government spending ratchets up, a significant majority of Americans still want their leaders to focus mostly on cutting government spending instead of making plans to borrow more money or increase taxes.”
“This latest polling does show a shift over the past two months toward a short-term fix from a bigger solution to the overall problem of spending by Washington, as the percentage of those who consider an increase in the debt ceiling to be the best solution has more than doubled – moving from 10 percent to 21 percent since this question was last asked in May. Meanwhile, the percentages of registered voters who most favored cuts in government spending decreased, down from 64 percent two months ago,” Wenzel said.
“What I think we are seeing here is the realization by many that there is such political gridlock in Washington that Democrats and Republicans are so far apart on how to deal with government spending that a short-term solution needs to be found to get the nation through the 2012 elections without destroying the economy. Once that is done, wholesale changes – one way or another – can be made,” Wenzel said. “This is clearly going to be a key issue in next year’s presidential and congressional campaigns, but this survey also shows the Republicans have the upper hand in the argument at this point, as more than three times as many registered voters agree with them that the best solution is to cut government spending than agree with Democrats that taxes need to be raised.
“Whether they articulate that effectively on the campaign trail is another question indeed,” he said.
More than 60 percent of the respondents said they would be willing to see the federal government “dramatically downsize” to deal with the debt issue, to 24 percent who said they wouldn’t. And a startling 52.6 percent said they would be willing to see “entire agencies and departments of the federal government shut down.” Thirty-six percent said they would not.
“Even among Democrats, slightly more than not favor big cuts to government. As is typically the case when details are placed on the table, there is a little less support for cuts in government. When asked specifically about the elimination of whole departments of the government, 53 percent favored such cuts, while 37 percent opposed them,” Wenzel said. “Among Republicans and independents, more than not favored such cuts, but among Democrats, 51 percent opposed the elimination of whole departments, while 38 percent favored such action.”
Wenzel said that by a 2-to-1 margin Americans don’t believe that the government needs to borrow another $2 trillion, and respondents were split on whether the debt ceiling should be raised that amount.
But he said that result may reflect uncertainty over the problems that could develop, because when respondents were asked whether raising the debt ceiling is a good idea, 59 percent said no. A total of 51 percent said it also was not necessary.
More than half said the doomsday predictions – coming largely from President Obama, who said he couldn’t assure recipients they would get their August Social Security checks if he didn’t get his way with the debt ceiling – are overblown.
“Republicans may find some spine to stick to their guns in opposing the hike in the borrowing limit, as 55 percent of registered voters said that if their own representative in Congress were to vote against an increase in the limit, they would be more likely to vote for that member of Congress in next year’s elections,” Wenzel said.
“It is important to note that the intensity of the responses strongly favors those who vote against the debt ceiling hike – as 35 percent said they would be ‘much more likely’ to vote for their own member of Congress next year if they oppose a hike in the debt ceiling now. In other words, Republicans stand to reap big political gains back home if they oppose the hike,” he said.
More than half the respondents said the Aug. 2 date cited by Obama is “arbitrary” and is being used to “gain political leverage because it comes just one day before Social Security checks are due to be mailed.”
More than half accused Obama of playing politics by using the threat of withholding Social Security checks, and more than 4 in 10 said “they believe Obama would target specific cuts that would have the effect of punishing the American public for the purpose of creating an outcry that could pressure Congress to spend more money on government programs,” the report said.
“The American public is aware that their national government is spending far too much money, and is inefficient in doing so,” said Wenzel. “They desperately want serious changes made, but seem realistic about the political realities of Washington’s current political gridlock.
“This is the first serious battle of the 2012 elections for president and Congress, and what happens in the next several weeks will be reflected outcomes of November 2012,” he said.
Why? Because just 27 percent said they believe the country is headed in the right direction, and just 43 percent give Obama positive job approval ratings. Positive perceptions of Congress languished at 12 percent.
That poll showed that 47.1 percent of all voters say Washington is giving them a “poor” value for their money, and another 27.6 percent said the value is “only fair.” The results cut across demographics, with Democrats having the most optimistic outlook. But even there, nearly 59 percent said the federal government’s value was “only fair” or “poor.”
Among the GOP respondents, almost 89 percent could not agree to rating the government’s value as excellent or good, and among independents the figure was more than 77 percent.
“Last November, voters across the nation sent a clear message to national lawmakers that they wanted solutions to out-of-control spending and government growth. Five months into the new Congress, national discontent appears stronger than ever on the federal government’s budgetary failures,” Wenzel said.
“This is a clear repudiation of the prevailing leadership in Washington, and sets up an interesting political dynamic as Democrats and Republicans prepare to fight the final battles over whether or not to increase the limit on how much the national government can borrow to pay its bills,” he said.
“Given three options on how to deal with the federal debt limit, the Republican approach appears to have the most public support, as 64 percent of likely voters nationwide said government spending should be cut to stay below the current debt limit. Another 10 percent said the debt limit should be increased to keep the nation solvent, while 18 percent favored increasing taxes to help pay federal bills,” Wenzel said of the May results.
“For all of the denigration the so-called tea party members have suffered in the past two years at the hands of the Democrats, the idea that Americans are ‘Taxed Enough Already’ – the core complaint of the tea partiers – clearly resonates across the country,” he warned.
Americans have a sizeable concern about whether the federal debt will hurt the U.S. economy in the coming months, too. More than 55 percent said they are very concerned about the situation; another 27 percent said they are somewhat concerned. Only one in 20 was “not at all concerned.”
An independent grassroots lobbying effort launched by WND founder Joseph Farah, called the “No More Red Ink” campaign, already has sent some 1 million letters to House Republicans calling on them to oppose any rise in the debt limit, thus shutting off the spigot for more spending beyond the government’s revenues.
Though there has been little discussion about it in the national media or even on Capitol Hill, House Republicans hold all the cards on denying a debt-limit increase. With control of the House, they need only 218 votes against it to freeze borrowing and force the federal government to begin living within its means immediately.
Since approval of both houses of Congress is required to raise the debt limit, it is one of the very few meaningful actions the Republican-controlled House can take without the consent of the Senate or the White House, Farah says.
He has called it the Republicans’ “secret weapon.”