Q-poll: GOP will get blame if debt ceiling not raised

Most analysts reviewing the latest Quinnipiac poll have focused on the fact that while Barack Obama remains seriously underwater on the economy, voters appear to trust him more than either party in Congress.  The bigger takeaway, though, might be how voters see the potential outcomes of the debate over the debt ceiling.  The Q-poll shows that Obama is, at least for now, edging out the GOP in casting the terms of the debate:

The president gets a 47 – 46 percent job approval rating, unchanged from the June 9 survey by the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University. That tops a 64 – 28 percent disapproval for Democrats in Congress and a 65 – 26 percent disapproval for Republicans. Obama outscores congressional Republicans on several points in the deficit reduction battle:

  • Voters will blame Republicans over Obama 48 – 34 percent if the debt limit is not raised;
  • Voters say 67 – 25 percent that an agreement to raise the debt ceiling should include tax hikes for the wealthy and corporations, not just spending cuts;
  • Voters say 45 – 37 percent that Obama’s proposals to raise revenues are “closing loopholes,” rather than “tax hikes”;
  • But voters say 57 – 30 percent that Obama’s proposals will impact the middle class, not just the wealthy.

“The American people aren’t very happy about their leaders, but President Barack Obama is viewed as the best of the worst, especially when it comes to the economy,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling institute.

Obama’s approval rating on the economy is still mired at 38/56, hardly a good position for an incumbent looking for a second term.  With another recession looking more likely, those numbers won’t improve much.  Right now, 71% think we’re in a recession, but they still blame George Bush 54/27 for it; that’s 49/24 among independents.  If we do hit negative territory again after two years of stagnation, though, Obama will end up owning it.

However, at the moment, Obama has a narrow lead over Republicans in trust on the economy, 45/38.  The bullet points show a serious vulnerability for Republicans in staring down Obama to the point where market disruptions from debt-ceiling paralysis occurs, assuming such disruptions do occur.  At least in this poll — and Quinnipiac has generally been a reliable, independent pollster — standing on the no-new-revenues pledge might end up with the GOP taking ownership of whatever follows.

This is, of course, exactly what Mitch McConnell warned about earlier this week.  However, Quinnipiac never asks the straightforward question of whether the ceiling should be raised, as other polls have and routinely get 2-1 opposition.  They do ask what worries voters more, that raising the debt limit would mean more government spending and debt, or economic disruption from a refusal to raise the ceiling.  The fear of economic disruption barely edges the fear of escalating debt 45/43, which seems somewhat of an outlier considering the polls from CBS and The Hill over the last few months.

If this poll is accurate, then McConnell has good reason to worry.