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Americans want compromise in 'fiscal cliff' talks

December 13, 2012|By Melanie Mason
  • An unidentified man dressed as Santa Claus speaks outside the Capitol calling for Republicans to help resolve the fiscal cliff crisis.
An unidentified man dressed as Santa Claus speaks outside the Capitol calling… (Win McNamee / Getty Images )

Democrats have an edge in public support in the fiscal cliff negotiations, a trio of polls out this week reveal, with the majority of Americans endorsing a compromise deal that includes spending cuts and tax increases.

The desire for compromise extends to some of the thornier issues in the fiscal cliff debate: an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released Wednesday found that 65% supported a deal that included increased tax rates (a longtime nonstarter for Republicans) and cuts to Social Security and Medicare (often resisted by Democrats).

For the first time, a majority of Republicans—nearly 60%—want their party’s leaders to compromise in order to reach a deal. That’s a notable shift from 2011, when majorities of Republicans wanted their party to stick to their positions instead of strike a deal. Democrats also are amenable to bargaining over the fiscal cliff, with 70%—an all-time high—supporting a compromise.

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Noting the polling data, Sen. Harry Reid, the Democratic majority leader, said Thursday that House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) “can’t ignore the American people forever.”

There’s danger for both parties in failing to reach a deal. The NBC News/WSJ poll found that 24% of respondents will blame congressional Repubicans if there is no compromise struck, and 19% will blame Obama and congressional Democrats. But a majority—56% will blame both sides equally.

Obama does benefit from climbing approval ratings: both the NBC News/WSJ poll and a survey from the Pew Research Center, released Thursday, find that the president’s job approval exceeds 50%, a marked post-election swell.

The Pew poll also finds that Democratic leaders best their GOP counterparts by 15 percentage points in job approval (40% to 25%) and Boehner, the lead GOP negotiator, is viewed more unfavorably (40%) than favorably (28%).

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A third poll, released by ABC News/Washington Post on Wednesday, captured a similar dynamic:  Obama held an advantage on public support over Boehner in fiscal cliff talks. The president’s edge came from stronger support among his base, with about eight in 10 Democrats giving their approval. Boehner, meanwhile, got approval from about four in 10 Republicans.

Like the NBC/WSJ poll, Pew found respondents favored a compromise deal of both tax hikes and spending cuts. But finding support for specific cuts proves trickier. Pew found that majorities of respondents opposed cuts to education, roads and transportation, programs to help low-income Americans and the military. Majorities also oppose gradually raising the eligibility age for Medicare and Social Security.

The deficit-reduction proposals with the most support center on wealthier Americans: raising taxes on income over $250,000, limiting deductions and raising the tax rate on investment income.

Lisa Mascaro in Washington contributed to this report.

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Twitter: @melmason

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