Lost in the Cirque du Freak-Out over the tax deal from both sides of the aisle is the fact that two-thirds of Americans support its two main outcomes. Gallup’s poll of adults show an identical percentage supporting across-the-board extensions of the current tax rates and the extension of jobless benefits as well — 66%. In fact, while the purer wings of both parties cling more to their own positions and oppose the others, the moderates in both parties seem to agree with the overall population:
Two major elements included in the tax agreement reached Monday between President Barack Obama and Republican leaders in Congress meet with broad public support. Two-thirds of Americans (66%) favor extending the 2001/2003 tax cuts for all Americans for two years, and an identical number support extending unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed. …
Looking more specifically at the different ideological wings of each party, only liberal Democrats oppose extending the tax breaks for everyone: 39% are in favor, while 55% are opposed. Among the other groups, support ranges from 64% of conservative/moderate Democrats to 87% of conservative Republicans.
Similarly, conservative Republicans are the only political/ideological group opposing the extension of unemployment benefits. The majority of moderate/liberal Republicans are in favor, as are most Democrats, regardless of ideology.
In fact, that number is almost identical to the opposition from liberal Dems on the tax rates at 38%. Large majorities of the moderates in both parties support both outcomes.
However, it’s not clear at all that people understand what is meant by the extension of unemployment benefits. The limit of 99 weeks stays in place, as Gabriel Malor explained yesterday; it’s the eligibility that gets extended. Instead of just a discrete 99 calendar weeks of benefits funded by the federal government that ends whether individuals have had 99 weeks of payments or not, the system shifts to 99 weeks of guaranteed benefits for each individual within the new window that got extended by 13 months (roughly, 56 weeks, so those with less than 43 weeks of checks already still won’t get to 99). Those who have reached the end of 99 weeks will not get any more checks. The cost grows with this, but it’s not an extension of benefits overall as first thought. That may end up denting some of the support for that part of the deal.
Still, the deal’s main objectives are tremendously popular, and that will provide at least some benefit to those who end up supporting it. Democrats who act to block it risk getting the blame for postponing or destroying a compromise that doesn’t make everyone happy but appears to fit within the political sense of reasonableness in the current environment.