Poll: Voters Near Unanimous on Debt Reduction

by Andrew Stiles

A new poll from The Hill found that 95 percent of likely voters believe that reducing the nation debt is either very or somewhat important, with just 2 percent saying it’s not important.

Count Sen. Dick Durbin (D., Ill.), and many of his colleagues, among the 2 percent. Durbin, a close Obama ally, said on Fox News Sunday that Democrats just could not cut spending beyond the $10 billion — mostly waste and earmarks — they have so far put on the table. “I think we’ve pushed this to the limit,” he said. “I’m willing to see more deficit reduction, but not out of domestic discretionary spending.” Nor Social Security, as it turns out. In fact, the only deficit-reduction plan Democrats have come up with lately is to just raise taxes, or as Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D., N.J.) put it: “Show me the money, show me the revenue!”

The poll of 1,000 likely voters, conducted on March 2, also asked respondents what they thought a plan for comprehensive tax reform should look like, with 42 percent supporting the Republican position — lower rates, less revenue — and 29 percent supporting the Democrats’ “show me the money” approach of raising taxes to pay off the deficit. Nineteen percent said they support a tax-reform plan that is revenue-neutral, the position held by the Obama administration.

According to the poll, only a quarter of respondents said they approved of the spending/tax ratio proposed by the deficit commission — two-thirds spending cuts, one-third taxes. More than half said they preferred a larger emphasis on spending cuts.

Getting voters to recognize the need for debt reduction is the easy part. The real question is: Now what? Are Americans ready to accept the significant cuts (and overall reform) to programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security that will be necessary to achieve meaningful debt reduction? Most polls suggest they aren’t. Republicans have stressed the importance of educating the public on seriousness of the problem. House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) is already prepping GOP freshman on how to sell entitlement reform to their constituents. It’s certainly not an easy case to make, but if Republicans succeed in making it, the Democrats, with their ‘do nothing’ (except raise taxes) approach, could look awfully pathetic in the eyes of the electorate.

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