As The Debt Ceiling Deadline Nears, Americans Become More Open To Raising It

July 21, 2011, 6:05 PM GMT+0

For the first time in Economist/YouGov polls, more Americans favor increasing the debt ceiling than do not. As the debate intensifies — and the deadline comes ever closer — 43% now say that the debt ceiling should be increased, up from 33% a week ago and 29% the week before. 

This week, only 35% are opposed to a debt ceiling increase, down from 45% two weeks ago and 42% last week.

However, there is still a partisan divide. Nearly six in ten Democrats support an increase; more than six in ten Republicans oppose one. Even more Tea Party Republicans -79% -oppose an increase. In the last week, support for increasing the debt ceiling has risen among most groups, but it has soared among independents, 54% of whom now favor an increase.

Fear of the impact of not raising the debt ceiling is spread among many groups, as majorities of Republicans, Democrats and independents think it would affect their families. Overall, 63% say it will, up twelve points from 51% last week. 44% say their personal savings or investments would be hurt. Increasingly large majorities that if the ceiling is not raised, some government services would be canceled, interest rates would rise, and there would be panic in the financial markets. Smaller majorities expect that the dollar would lose its position as the world’s reserve currency, the U.S. would default on its debts and Social Security payments would be delayed. 

Are the following things likely to happen if Congress does not raise the debt ceiling?

LikelyUnlikelyNot sure

Some government services will be canceled




Interest rates will go up




There will be a panic in financial markets




The government will start selling off its gold reserves




The government will default on its current debt payments




Social Security payments will be delayed




The U.S. dollar will lose its position as the world’s reserve currency




But there have been contrary voices. Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, leader of the Tea Party caucus in the House of Representatives, has said she expects no deleterious economic impact if the ceiling is not raised. She has also said she would not raise the ceiling. And there are sizable partisan differences when it comes to believing Social Security, the area where the largest number of Americans could be impacted if the debt ceiling isn’t increased. 60% of Americans say Social Security payments would be delayed if there is no increase, and 51% of Republicans agree. But only 39% of Tea Party Republicans believe this would happen. 

Social Security, and not the deficit, is seen as the country’s second most important issue, behind only the economy. The percentage of senior citizens who name it as their most important issue has risen from 28% to 42% in the last week.

Americans remain hopeful that there will be some agreement on the debt ceiling before the deadline. In this week’s poll, more than twice as many think there will be an agreement that say there will not be one. 

However, just as in previous polls, there is much more room for compromise among Democrats than Republicans. Americans favor compromise in principle, 61% to 39%. Democrats are even more willing to compromise to get things done (73% to 27%). But Republicans disagree. 59% of them want their Congressional representative to stick to principles, even at the risk of not getting things done. And that feeling is even more intense among Tea Party Republicans. 73% of them want no compromises. 

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