House Speaker John Boehner thinks Republicans can win the debt ceiling showdown, and he’s got a poll to prove it.
Huffington Post reported: “House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told members that he was prepared to use the debt ceiling fight as leverage to get spending cuts. According to a source in the room, Boehner showed fellow lawmakers the results of a survey by the Winston Group, a GOP polling firm, which showed that 72 percent of Americans ‘agree any increase in the nation’s debt limit must be accompanied by spending cuts and reforms of a greater amount.'”
“Republican” internal polling should have been the first alarm. I read that poll, and even in a Republican internal, it clearly shows that the Republicans in Congress have higher unfavorables than the Democrats. They’re gerrymandered into safety, but on a national level, this means the public doesn’t approve of their behavior. Boehner ignores that part of the poll. Moving on.
The poll also shows that when it comes to voting, Americans don’t care about spending as much as they care about the economy and jobs. What have Republicans in Boehner’s House done about jobs and the economy? Nada, except trying to pass tax cuts for the rich/corporations off as a “jobs bill”. The poll also shows that the public trusts Democrats on the economy more right now than they do Republicans by 47-44%.
Another segment of the poll asks if the responder has heard anything about what Republicans are up to. The second highest responses was “They are blocking everything/not compromising” at 18%. Only the Fiscal Cliff eclipsed their failure to compromise, coming in at 48%.
Did the above (what you heard about Republicans are doing) make you see the Republicans as more or less favorable? 57% say LESS FAVAORABLE. Hello, Speaker Boehner. To be fair, 46% also found the Democrats less favorable after citing they heard about the fiscal cliff and raising taxes on the rich (note: the internal pollster wrote “rasie taxes/increase taxes on the rich” which could suggest that people conveniently might have believed that Democrats were raising taxes in general).
The poll shows that the majority said raising the retirement age for Medicare is unacceptable. The majority said reducing Social Security benefits for higher income individuals is acceptable. (This is not what Republicans mean by “reforming” Social Security so the poll does not justify their policy.) Eliminating the home mortgage deduction is not acceptable. (This was both Romney and Ryan’s plan. Cluing in yet, GOP?)
Another clue for Boehner; here is the ranking for what plan those polled approved re taxes (Yes, it’s Obama’s plan!):
1. Raising taxes on those making over a million dollars a year 33%
2. Raising taxes on those making over $250,000 a year 42%
3. Not raising taxes at all 23%
4. Don’t Know/Refused (DO NOT READ) 2%
Wow, okay so the public wasn’t with Republicans on the last fight, but their loss translates in their mind to a mandate to hold the debt ceiling hostage.
If an agreement is not reached, who do you blame more? (ROTATE)
1. President Obama and Democrats in Congress 36
2. Republicans in Congress 48
3. Don’t Know/Refused (DO NOT READ) 16
The second alarm is that even if 72% of the country is misinformed about how the debt ceiling functions (thanks to Republican messaging), it’s true that a majority of Americans always say they want to see cuts in spending. The problems come when you get specific. They don’t want cuts to their programs, just as Republicans (and some Democrats) always leave defense cuts off the table.
Even their own polling doesn’t justify their position in the way they claim it does. If I were a Republican strategist, I’d be warning them to stop believing their own selective interpretation of their own polling. Please, for the love of reality, STOP. It does not say what they think it says.
Here is how they explain the debt ceiling in the poll, “The debt ceiling for the nation is going to be reached at the end of December, meaning the country cannot borrow money to fund the government at its current level by the middle of February. Would you favor or oppose increasing the debt ceiling?” That makes it sound like by not raising the debt ceiling, the country won’t spend more. In reality, the debt ceiling covers money already spent by Congress via the laws it passed.
So we get to the part Boehner cherry picked (hey, if you’re fooling the public and you’re fooling yourself, what does that make you?):
Do you agree or disagree with the following statement? Any increase in the nation’s debt limit must be accompanied by spending cuts and reforms of a greater amount.
1. Agree 72
2. Disagree 22
3. Don’t Know/Refused (DO NOT READ) 6
Now, if Boehner was smart, he’d go back up to the part where they asked about spending cuts to specific programs. But no. Leaving it vague allows Republicans to sell the idea that the public backs them in their ideas.
The people they polled get their news (in descending order) from local TV, the daily newspaper, CNN and Fox. The largest demo group is age 55-65 in this poll. The largest group regarding income makes over 100k a year. Their responders were 73% white. The largest regional demo is the South. Seriously.
Are you getting the picture yet? This is the same demo Republicans always target and it’s how they got the 2012 election so wrong.
So, even in a poll targeting their own demo, they are still to blame and tax cuts for over 250 were still supported by the majority. Tent shrinkage alert.
Proving that they will never learn from their mistakes or take responsibility for their failures, Republicans still believe in their own interpretation of their own internal polling. You might think they at least learned that President Obama isn’t fooling when he gets stern with the children.
Obama warned Republicans, “I will not have another debate with this Congress over whether or not they should pay the bills that they’ve already racked up through the laws that they passed.” They ignore the warning at their own risk.
Please proceed, Speaker.
Ms. Jones is the co-founder/ editor-in-chief of PoliticusUSA and a member of the White House press pool.
Sarah hosts Politicus News and co-hosts Politicus Radio. Her analysis has been featured on several national radio, television news programs and talk shows, and print outlets including Stateside with David Shuster, as well as The Washington Post, The Atlantic Wire, CNN, MSNBC, The Week, The Hollywood Reporter, and more.
Sarah is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.