Gallup: Plurality now supports "balanced approach" of tax hikes and spending cuts to reduce deficit

Depressing, not so much because of the raw numbers as because of the trend. Sixteen months ago, adults split 50/32 in favor of deficit reduction entirely or mostly via spending cuts versus the “balanced approach,” i.e. an equal mix of cuts and tax hikes. That was a hopeful early sign that voters had grasped the core problem driving runaway deficits; the next step would be to educate them on the urgent need for entitlement reform and the inconvenient fact that tax hikes on the rich alone won’t dig us out of this Grand Canyon. If they want to tax their way out, it’s time to pay the piper.

Today’s split? 45/40 in favor of “balance” over mostly/all cuts. Backslide:

GOP opinion is actually slightly more in favor of a cuts-heavy approach now than it was in July 2011; back then, Republicans split 67/24 between mostly/only cuts and “balance.” It’s Democrats and independents who have shifted dramatically. Last year Dems split 33/42 between cuts and “balance” while independents split 51/30. The indie numbers now have nearly flipped. It’s a crying shame that Gallup didn’t poll this question between then and now so that we could track how opinion changed over time. Was it a gradual change, starting maybe with the debt-ceiling standoff? Or did Obama’s campaign attacks on Romney and the rich paying their “fair share” move the numbers more? The only thing we can safely conclude is that Romney’s messaging about keeping taxes low on job creators in order to spur growth didn’t do the trick.

More data, this time from the national exit poll on election day:

That’s 60% support for raising taxes on “the rich,” which of course is what Boehner and House Republicans are agonizing over right now. He’s said repeatedly that he’s open to new revenue but not new taxes, but some in the GOP caucus aren’t so sure everyone’s on board with that. Especially if the top bracket moves from $250,000+ to $1 million and up:

It’s not that they’re about to fully embrace President Barack Obama’s tax hikes, but many Republican lawmakers privately concede that the 2012 election left them with far short of a mandate on taxes, and if urged by Democrats to raise rates on what they dub the mega-wealthy, they will have a tough time resisting…

Some higher-ranking Republicans, including South Carolina Rep. Tim Scott, who was elected to leadership for a second term last week, say they know lawmakers look like they could buckle on a million-dollar threshold.

“Oh, absolutely,” Scott said when asked if some of his fellow Republicans will support the increase. “People are actually coming out saying that.” Scott said he would oppose tax hikes even if the threshold is raised.

Why are Republicans wavering? Because of the numbers above, but also because of this:

We could kick around theories on why the GOP would get the blame but I think the root of it is in O’s message. When voters hear that Obama wants “balance,” it sounds moderate and sensible even though Democratic leaders are seemingly uninterested in the most crucial, sensible component of any prospective Grand Bargain. So the GOP ends up staring at -30 with indies on the blame question if a stalemate carries us off the cliff, which would be bad news given how worried people are about the consequences. A recent Gallup poll found that 82% say it’s extremely or very important to make a deal before the automatic tax hikes and spending cuts take effect. In the Pew poll, 68% expect that falling off the cliff would have a major effect on the economy and 62% expect it’ll be negative. Interesting footnote: In both polls, Republicans are more concerned about the impact than Democrats or independents. In Gallup, 88% say it’s extremely or very important to make a deal; in Pew, 79% say the cliff will have a negative effect on the economy. I assume both are a product of GOPers worrying about the tax-hike part of the equation more than Dems or indies.

Anyway, if you want to know why some House caucus members are toying with the idea of raising rates on millionaires, that’s why. Exit question: Can anyone square this result, also from the national exit poll, with any of the above? I realize voters aren’t always consistent in their choices, but c’mon.

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