And it’s not even close, according to Gallup’s latest survey. While their analysis focuses on the support for compromise in the debate, the question of what gets compromised matters quite a bit to Americans — in fact, more than avoiding a default:
Americans continue to express a strong desire that any agreement that is reached include plans for major cuts in future spending. Americans now by a 20-point margin — 55% vs. 35% — say they worry more that the government would raise the debt ceiling without plans for major spending cuts, than that the government would not raise the ceiling and an economic crisis would ensue.
Americans appear to be saying to their elected representatives: Get an agreement done, even if it is not an ideal plan, but make sure it includes major spending cuts.
Of course, Americans need to know that we’re still not really talking about actual spending cuts. Every plan put forward so far has offered a reduction in the increase in spending. That’s true of the Paul Ryan plan, the Tom Coburn plan [see update], and the debt commission plan that got published this year and roundly ignored by the man who created the panel, Barack Obama. That still improves on Obama’s contribution, which actually increases deficit spending over the next decade, as the CBO pointed out in April.
But even a slowdown in spending is better than staying on the same trajectory on which we find ourselves, and this poll shows just how badly Americans want that trajectory changed. The results echo the midterm elections, which took place less than nine months ago, when voters turned out a Democratic majority in the House and nearly did the same thing in the Senate while Democrats had a numeric advantage in the Senate election. Even with the constant hysteria-mongering over the potential for fiscal ruin in a default — certainly with some basis in fact — Americans are fed up with Washington overspending and want it changed, and changed now.
Gallup did miss an opportunity here, though. They should have asked the same question but replaced “spending cuts” with “tax hikes.” We would then know whether 80% fear missing an opportunity to raise taxes and keep spending rather than solve the debt ceiling issue, as Barack Obama appears to desire.
Update: A source on the Hill corrects me by saying that the Coburn plan does actually reduce spending rather than just the rate of increase. It eliminates the Commerce and Educatin Departments as well as 200 federal programs in order to get to an actual reduction. However, since Coburn has backed the latest Gang of Six proposal, this will likely remain an academic point to be used for later efforts.