Polls Show Support for Fixing Federal Deficit, but Not for Proposed Remedies

BY David Chalian  April 20, 2011 at 8:54 AM EST

National Debt Clock; photo by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

According to polls, the public supports efforts to fix spending but disagrees on how. Photo by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images.

The Morning Line

The storyline after November’s midterm elections was that voters had sent a clear message to lawmakers in Washington to reduce the size and scope of government.

And it appears many Americans still feel that way. Nearly two-thirds of those surveyed recently by Gallup said they worry a great deal about federal spending and the budget deficit.

Despite those concerns, the public has little appetite for most of the remedies proposed Republicans and Democrats, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll released this week.

The survey found strong opposition to cutting Medicare (78 percent), Medicaid (69 percent) and military spending (56 percent).

The only proposal that seemed to garner much support was President Obama’s call to raise taxes on households earning more than $250,000 a year. More than seven in 10 backed that idea.

The conflicting poll numbers underline the difficulty confronting leaders from both parties as they attempt to sell their long-term budget visions to the country.

President Obama has called for $4 trillion in deficit savings over the next 12 years, and while about a trillion of that comes from doing away with the Bush-era tax breaks for wealthy Americans, he also proposes $2 trillion in domestic spending reductions, including up to $400 billion from the Pentagon budget.

The president also concedes that savings need to be exacted from Medicare and Medicaid, but he contends the structures for the programs should be left in place.

President Obama is expected to talk up his deficit reduction plan at a town hall scheduled for 4:45 p.m. EDT Wednesday in Palo Alto, Calif., at Facebook headquarters. He has a similar event planned Thursday in Reno, Nev.

The Republican plan offered by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., would make sweeping changes to Medicare and Medicaid. Rep. Ryan’s proposal would overhaul Medicare by issuing payments directly to private health plans instead of directly to doctors and hospitals. He would also transform Medicaid into a block grant program.

Last Friday, House Republicans passed Rep. Ryan’s budget blueprint, with its target of $4.4 trillion in deficit reductions over 10 years. Every Democrat and four Republicans voted against the measure.

Democrats are now looking to use that vote against 10 GOP lawmakers with Wednesday’s release of a series of radio ads from House Majority PAC.

One spot goes after freshman Rep. Sean Duffy, R-Wis.:

“While Duffy’s budget leaves the wealthy fat and happy, it puts the squeeze on Wisconsin families, and will end Medicare as we know it, that’s right, end Medicare as we know it.”

Such advertisements may turn out to be effective political weapons, given the apparent opposition to cutting Medicare and Medicaid.

However, the effort by both sides to score political points in the budget battle only forestalls a real long-term solution that the American people claim they want — and is something the country certainly needs.

OBAMA BESTS CHRISTIE IN GARDEN STATE

It appears Gov. Chris Christie, R-N.J., isn’t the only one who thinks he’s not ready to be president.

According to the latest Quinnipiac University poll numbers out Wednesday morning, the governor’s constituents in the Garden State seem to agree.

In a head-to-head 2012 match-up, President Obama bests Gov. Christie, 52 percent to 39 percent.

Gov. Christie’s approval rating has dropped five points, from 52 percent to 47 percent, since February. President Obama is still getting majority support from New Jerseyans with a 51 percent approval rating in the current poll.

The governor has cultivated a public image centered on his tough blunt talk, and women and men seem to be responding quite differently to it.

Check out this gender gap: In the poll, men approve of Christie 56 percent to 38 percent, compared to women who disapprove 53 percent to 38 percent.

Gov. Christie remains one of the top draws in GOP circles. Just last month he headlined the annual fundraising dinner for the National Republican Congressional Committee and helped rake in $10 million for his party’s efforts to retain control of the House.

BACHMANN ENDS BIRTHERISM?

Just as billionaire businessman Donald Trump is attempting to ride debunked claims about President Obama’s citizenship to the top of the polls, Tea Party hero and potential 2012 presidential candidate Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., is working to put the issue to rest.

Rep. Bachmann has always been careful not to offend potential supporters who may believe in the false idea that President Obama was not born in America by suggesting that she’s ready and willing to show her birth certificate to anybody who asks for it.

However, on ABC’s “Good Morning America” Wednesday, George Stephanopoulos pressed the issue with her, and it appeared she found it to be a distraction for Republicans as she tried to get back to talking about her concern over the debt and deficits.

In the end, Rep. Bachmann looked at the evidence that Stephanopoulos put forth — the certificate of live birth with seal and signature from Hawaii officials that has been readily available online — and said, “Then that should settle it.”

When Rep. Bachmann was asked if she would support legislation in Iowa requiring presidential candidates to submit birth certificates, she noted Gov. Jan Brewer recently vetoed a similar law in Arizona but went on to say that if that was the law in Iowa, then she wouldn’t have any problem complying with it.

“Apparently the president wouldn’t either,” Rep. Bachmann added in another attempt to put the “birther” issue to rest.

This is clearly a question that will dog every Republican in the presidential field, and Rep. Bachmann’s desire to put it behind her is yet another sign of just how seriously she’s looking at getting into the battle for the GOP nomination.

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