Americans Oppose Raising Debt Ceiling By Two to One, But Think It Will Happen Anyway

May 27, 2011, 5:00 PM GMT+0

Americans have distrusted the government in Washington for a long time, during both Republican and Democratic Presidencies. They don’t expect to be represented by officials in either Washington or their own state capitals. This week’s Economist/YouGov Poll suggests Americans also don’t expect their representatives to follow their desires when it comes to raising the debt ceiling.

When asked directly whether Congress should vote to raise the debt ceiling, Americans say “no” — and by nearly two to one. The question reminded respondents that the old debt ceiling had already been reached, though it did not say much about possible consequences. But while they didn’t approve of raising the ceiling, Americans overwhelmingly — Democrats and Republicans alike — believed Congress would do just that. 

The budget deficit remains a major concern for the country. Nearly nine in ten say they are concerned about it, with more than half saying they are “very concerned.” 62% say it is an issue that is “very important” to them. And it ranks behind only the economy and health care as the country’s most important issue. While it is a more important issue for Republicans than for Democrats, it concerns most Democrats, too.

Republicans and Democrats also agree when it comes to how they want their representatives in Congress to behave — they overwhelmingly want them to support the policies their constituents want, rather than follow their own views. 

Americans of all partisan persuasions also would like to have the public directly voting on legislation. Republicans also want their representatives not to compromise; something that Democrats would be willing to have their representatives do, if that were the way to get things done. 

If you had to choose, would you rather have a congressperson who...


Compromises to get things done.





Sticks to his or her principles, no matter what.





The lack of trust and the belief that government doesn’t represent their interest is not just a problem for the government in Washington. Americans are even less likely to approve of how their states’ Governors do their jobs than they are to approve of President Obama’s performance, though Republicans like their Governor much more than they approve of the President. 

It matters relatively little which party controls the State Governor’s Mansion: 36% of those in Republican-controlled states approve; 31% in Democratic-controlled states do. More disapprove than approve in both cases.

Trust levels for state government are nearly as bad as they are for the national government, and the public’s belief their interests are being represented is very low for both.

Nearly three out of four Americans say public officials in general don’t care very much — or at all — about what the people think. Even more independents — 82% -- agree. 

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