The President And The Budget Deficit: Only 33% Would Raise The Debt Ceiling

July 14, 2011, 5:56 PM GMT+0

President Obama’s attempt to inject himself into the budget debate may not be helping him in the eyes of the public. Not only are Americans still opposed in principle to raising the debt ceiling (although majorities would favor agreements that include budget cuts and the elimination of tax breaks for the wealthy), but in the latest Economist/YouGov Poll, Mr. Obama’s approval rating is edging close to the all-time low he saw after the 2010 Congressional elections. 

Just 40% approve of the way he is handling his job; half disapprove. The President gets little support for the goal of increasing the debt ceiling — something supported by only 33% of Americans. 42% would not raise the ceiling. However, that is an increase in support for a debt ceiling increase from last week’s poll. 

A majority of Democrats (52%) favors raising the ceiling. So does a plurality of those 65 and older. But most other groups are opposed. Support does not rise much when respondents are warned of some consequences of not raising the ceiling. Just one in five of those who oppose the rise or aren’t sure change their minds even if it meant that the government wouldn’t be able to pay its bills or had to delay Social Security or Medicare payments.

Opposition to increasing the debt ceiling exists even though most Americans expect that there will be economic consequences if the ceiling isn’t raised:

• Three in four see the consequences as serious, and 56% say they would be very serious.
• More than half think government services would be canceled, interest rates would rise, there would be panic in the financial markets, the U.S. dollar would lose its place as the global reserve currency, and the government would default on its debt.
• And 51% say they or someone in their immediate family would be affected by the consequences of not raising the ceiling — and about half of both Republicans and Democrats expect to feel the prospective pain.

There are acceptable solutions, however, and the most popular appears to be tying the rise in the debt ceiling to spending cuts. In fact, by 57% to 9%, Americans say they would choose large spending cuts over defaulting on the U.S. debt. And linking the rise in the debt ceiling to spending cuts is the only option with bipartisan majority support, with 83% of Republicans and 54% of Democrats favoring increasing the debt ceiling if an agreement provided large spending cuts. 

Would you support or oppose an agreement to raise the debt ceiling if it were tied to a deficit reduction plan that included the following measures...?

SupportNeither support, nor opposeOpposeNot sure

Tax increases





Spending cuts





Entitlement cuts





Ending tax breaks for the wealthy





Overall, the President’s handling of the budget deficit gets a negative assessment, as it has for most of his time in office. This week, just 30% approve, and a majority of 59% disapprove. 

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