The trend among pollsters appears to be consistent on the question of raising the federal government’s credit limit. A recent CBS poll put flat-out opposition to a debt-ceiling hike at 2-1, and Gallup’s latest survey shows the same dynamic, even if it also shows a third of respondents too unengaged to offer an opinion:
By a 47% to 19% margin, Americans say they would want their member of Congress to vote against raising the U.S. debt ceiling, while 34% don’t know enough to say. Republicans oppose raising the debt ceiling by 70% to 8% and independents by 46% to 15%. Democrats favor raising the ceiling by 33% to 26%. …
A majority of Americans (57%) say they are closely following the news about “discussions to raise the U.S. debt ceiling, the maximum amount of money the U.S. government can borrow by law.” Republicans are following the issue more closely than are Democrats and independents; upper-income Americans are following it more closely than lower-income Americans; and those with a postgraduate education more so than those with a high school education or less.
The topline results give Republicans a lot of ammunition in the battle over the debt ceiling, but the large number of unengaged on the issue could be a problem. For the 43% who haven’t followed the issue closely, the scare tactics that the Obama administration first deployed could become effective if that’s the only message that reaches them. The GOP will have to press their case hard in the media that we have a spending problem, not a revenue problem, and we need spending reductions rather than enabling more borrowing — or at least in tandem.
For the White House, though, this is all bad news. First, their own party is the most disengaged on the topic. Two thirds of Republicans (66%) are following it very or somewhat closely, while only 53% of independents and 51% of Democrats can say the same. While independents oppose raising the debt ceiling by 46/15 (Republicans oppose it 70/8), Democrats only barely support it 33/26, with more claiming not to know enough to say (40%).
Furthermore, the more closely people follow the debate, the farther they move from Obama’s position. Among those who are less engaged, the ratio of opposition is 2-1, Gallup reports. Among the 23% who claim to follow it very closely, it’s more like 5-2, 62/25.
With these numbers, the GOP has little motivation to budge from outright opposition. The White House will have to offer some powerful incentives to get their debt-ceiling hike this summer, and $36 billion won’t cut it this time around.