CBS, Gallup polls show no one winning the sequester PR war

Actually the two polls by Gallup and CBS don’t agree on much, but they both agree on the same point — no one’s winning the PR war over the sequester, at least not at the moment.  While there is a wide disparity between the two surveys on just how much this will impact the daily lives of Americans, it’s not doing much for the partisan slapfight over spending.

Let’s start with CBS and the more significant finding of personal impact (via Jim Geraghty):

A CBS News Poll conducted as the sequester cuts were about to begin finds that most (53 percent) percent say they personally will be affected by the cuts in the sequester. In addition, most Americans want to cut spending and raise taxes to reduce the deficit.

More Americans blame the Republicans in Congress more for the difficulty in reaching agreement on spending cuts by the deadline. But both sides are urged to compromise.

Actually, that gap is almost insignificant in consideration of the margin of error, which is plus-or-minus three points:

There is plenty of blame to go around for the inability to reach agreement on deficit reduction by the March 1 deadline. Thirty-eight percent of Americans place more blame on the Republicans in Congress for the failure, while 33 percent blame President Obama and the Democrats in Congress more. Nineteen percent volunteer that they blame both sides.

For the most part, America’s partisans point their fingers at the other party. Sixty-nine percent of Republicans blame the president and Democrats in Congress, while 72 percent of Democrats blame the Republicans in Congress.

Barack Obama spent two weeks and traveled for over 5200 miles in a campaign to blame The End of the World As We Know It on the GOP,  with a sympathetic press amplifying the demagoguery over a 2.3% reduction in federal spending.  A five-point lead for Barack Obama’s position while capturing less than 40% of respondents in a CBS poll is hardly a victory.  It certainly won’t prompt House Republicans to cave to Obama’s demands for more revenue, especially after having already done so in January.

Meanwhile, Gallup’s survey finds that a majority of Americans can’t even say whether the sequester is good or bad for the country or themselves:

In the initial days after the budget sequester went into effect, a majority (51%) of Americans say they don’t know enough to judge whether the automatic cuts in the budget put in place last Friday are a good or a bad thing for the country. The remainder tilt toward negative evaluations of the sequestration’s impact on the country, by 30% to 18%. Similarly, the majority of Americans don’t yet have enough information to judge sequestration’s impact on themselves personally, but among those who do, the tilt is negative, by 26% to 17%.

A Gallup survey conducted before sequestration went into effect Friday showed that Americans wanted Congress to pass legislation to avoid it, by 45% to 37%, and that the majority thought the cuts would harm the U.S. economy “this year” if they were enacted. The new questions, asked March 2-3, in the first days after the sequester went into effect, gave respondents the “or don’t you know enough to say” option, which typically results in larger proportions of unsure responses than if that alternative is not made explicit. The views of those with an opinion continue to tilt negative, although now, the responses to the question with the new wording show that more say they will need to wait to assess whether the cuts are good or bad for the country or for themselves. Indeed, many experts on budgetary matters say it may take a while for the cuts’ effects to become apparent as they begin to move through the system.

Bear in mind that these cuts have been on the table since August 2011.  For those unsure whether the cuts are good, bad, or indifferent, there doesn’t seem to have been much urgency in trying to determine an answer, not even with the recent Nightmare on Sequester Street hysteria coming from the White House.

Interestingly, among those who have an opinion on either personal or national impact, only Democrats split wider than the margin of error on good or bad impact; the split for Republicans and independents ranges from only one to five points.  Democrats have the largest majorities in both contexts saying that they don’t really know whether the sequester is bad or good.

This is looking like an embarrassing narrative failure by the White House.  If this is the end of the world, it’s only as the Obama administration knows it.