There are some really surprising poll results from polling firm Rasmussen Reports, which give a sense of how popular spending cuts would be today. Rasmussen sets the stage for the environment in which they conducted their survey:
President Obama yesterday criticized congressional Republicans for insisting on spending cuts in any budget deal that continues government operations past October 1, saying they risk “economic chaos.” Most voters agree a federal government shutdown would be bad for the economy, but they’re willing to risk one until Democrats and Republicans in Congress agree on ways to cut the budget, including cuts in funding for the new national health care law.
It doesn’t help the President’s case that he used very similar rhetoric when describing the impact of the budget sequester earlier this year, which turned out to have a trivial impact upon the U.S. economy, with one result being that the President badly damaged his credibility.
Rasmussen puts numbers to the key questions they asked:
Just 20% of Likely U.S. Voters believe a partial shutdown of the federal government would be good for economy, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey. Fifty-six percent (56%) say such a shutdown would be bad for the economy, even though payments for things like Social Security, Medicare and unemployment would continue. Sixteen percent (16%) think it would have no impact.
Let’s visualize those poll results:
The perspective that a temporary shutdown of the federal government’s operations is not very surprising, considering all of the different areas of everyday life into which the U.S. federal government intrudes. And given the sheer amount of spending that the federal government does, it’s perhaps very understandable. But how do Americans really feel about that sheer amount of spending in the U.S. federal government’s budget?
But 58% favor a federal budget that cuts spending, while only 16% prefer one that increases spending. Twenty-one percent (21%) support a budget that keeps spending levels about the same.
Here’s how those poll results stack up:
Here, Americans recognize that the amount of spending that the U.S. federal government does is excessive. But it’s the next results that are really surprising:
This helps explain why 53% would rather have a partial government shutdown until Democrats and Republicans can agree on what spending to cut. Thirty-seven percent (37%) would prefer instead that Congress avoid a shutdown by authorizing spending at existing levels as the president has proposed.
Here’s that poll result breakdown:
With a 3% margin of error, what these results really indicate that Americans are about equally split, since we must assume that those who didn’t prefer either option would not prefer the possibility of a partial government shutdown.
What’s important to recognize however, is that these results apply in a media environment that isn’t chock full of horror stories about how bad a government shutdown is — that would likely change when a very biased media begins throwing its weight behind President Obama’s position, much as they unquestioningly have in the past.
That means that supporters of reining in government spending to more reasonable levels have some work to do. If you were in charge of that effort, how would you go about building upon the popular support that’s out there to bring it up to a supermajority level?
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