Pew, WaPo/ABC polls show public unimpressed with fiscal-cliff deal

posted at 9:21 am on January 8, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

Two polls released today show that few seem terribly impressed by the outcome of the fiscal-cliff pas de deux last week — and even fewer impressed by Republican leadership in the solution.  The better news for John Boehner and the GOP comes from the Washington Post/ABC poll, a rather wry twist that shows just how poorly Republicans performed in the fight.  Barack Obama wins majority approval in both polls, but let’s start with WaPo/ABC:

Americans give a lukewarm response to last week’s agreement to avoid the fiscal cliff, albeit with higher marks for the deal to President Obama than to House Speaker John Boehner.

More people in this ABC News/Washington Post poll approve than disapprove of the agreement, but just by a 7-point margin, 45 to 38 percent, with a substantial 17 percent undecided. Moreover, intensity is on the negative side: “Strong” critics of the deal outnumber its strong proponents by 2-1.

At the same time, Obama gets majority approval for his handling of the negotiations, 52-37 percent, while Boehner’s score is reversed – just 31 percent approve of his performance on the cliff talks, while 51 percent disapprove. Boehner’s positive score is up 6 percentage points from a month ago, but remains a broad 21 points behind the president’s.

Among those who favor the agreement, twice as many approve of Obama’s handling of the negotiations than Boehner’s, 86 vs. 43 percent. Indeed, this poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates, finds that Boehner lacks majority approval for his work on the fiscal cliff talks from any group. And while Obama breaks even on intensity of sentiment, strong approval of Boehner’s performance falls to the single digits.

About the only demographic that shows significant disapproval for Obama in these negotiations is self-described conservatives, at 36/58.  What’s their score for Boehner?  37/49. Obama’s approval rating on negotiations actually rose very little over the month preceding the showdown, going from 49/42 on December 9th to 52/37 on January 6th — so the “victory” didn’t have much impact.

On the deal itself, there wasn’t much enthusiasm in the demos, but there was a little. Democrats approved 66/19, while independents slightly disapproved 40/44.  Those making less than $50K gave it plurality support at 49/33, hardly a ringing endorsement, while the middle class gave it plurality disapproval at 40/46.  The intensity factor leans more toward disapproval overall, the pollster notes:

Still, as noted, strong criticism of the deal surpasses strong support, 25 percent vs. 12 percent. That’s largely because strong disapproval jumps to 50 percent among very conservatives, 45 percent among Republicans and 40 percent among people in the $100,000-plus income bracket.

The second poll comes from Pew, which clearly shows Obama the winner in the fight.  Americans, though, largely see themselves as the losers:

The latest national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted Jan. 3-6 among 1,003 adults, finds that 57% say that Obama got more of what he wanted from the tax legislation while just 20% say Republican leaders got more of what they wanted. And while 48% approve of the way Obama handled the fiscal cliff negotiations only 19% approve of the way GOP leaders handled the negotiations.

Republicans take a particularly sour view of the outcome: just 16% approve of the final legislation, and by a 74% to 11% margin they think Obama got more of what he wanted. Only 40% of Republicans approve of how their party’s leaders handled the negotiations; by comparison, fully 81% of Democrats approve of how Obama handled the negotiations.

Relatively few Americans expect that the tax legislation that resulted from those talks will help people like themselves, the budget deficit, or the national economy. Just three-in-ten Americans say the tax measure will mostly help people like them; 52% say it will mostly hurt. And even when it comes to the budget deficit, 44% say the deal will mostly hurt, while 33% say it will mostly help.

Obama’s win echoes through the demographics, too:

Democrats and independents also say Obama fulfilled more of his goals in the legislation, but by smaller margins – 53% to 26% among Democrats and 55% to 19% among independents.

Overall, 48% approve of how Obama handled the negotiations over the tax legislation, while just 19% approve of the job GOP leaders did hammering out the legislation. While Republicans broadly disapprove of how Obama handled the tax measure (77% disapprove), they give GOP leaders only mixed approval ratings – 40% approve while 45% disapprove.

Just 14% of independents approve of the way Republican leaders handled the fiscal cliff talks while 69% disapprove. Independents are divided over how Obama handled the negotiations (41% approve, 42% disapprove). Democrats overwhelmingly approve of Obama’s handling of the negotiations (81% approve) and disapprove of GOP leaders (79% disapprove).

We’ve heard a lot from Republicans about their increased leverage in the spending debate.  Let’s hope they figure out how to use it.  A few more outcomes like this, and we’ll be on our way to one-party governance in the last two years of Obama’s term.


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