The President, Congress and Deficit Battles April 15-20, 2011

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1 CBS NEWS/NEW YORK TIMES POLL For release: Thursday, April 21, :30pm (EDT) The President, Congress and Deficit Battles April 15-20, 2011 With the possibility of more spending showdowns between President Obama and Congressional Republicans ahead, Americans disapprove of how both are handling the deficit. Most Americans don t think either Barack Obama or the Republicans in Congress share their priorities for the nation, and they are divided over whether deficit-cutting helps create jobs. In the wake of the recent threat of a government shutdown and continued pessimism about the economy, the President s approval rating has slipped now, 46% approve and 45% disapprove, while disapproval of Congress, at 75%, is approaching record highs. Looking ahead to the next battle, nearly two-thirds of Americans 63% - oppose the idea of raising the debt limit (often called the debt ceiling ). On this, most partisans find some agreement. On other looming fights over Medicare spending, especially deep partisan and age divisions emerge. Most younger Americans are willing to see Medicare spending cut, but most seniors are not. The President and Congress President Obama s approval rating is down slightly from March, and Americans are now mixed on how he is handling his job: 46% approve, and 45% disapprove. Barack Obama s Overall Job Rating Now 3/2011 1/ /2010 9/2010 Approve 46% 49% 49% 44% 45% Disapprove While Democrats continue to support him in large numbers, the President s disapproval rating among Republicans and independents has risen somewhat. Barack Obama s Overall Job Rating (By Party) Republicans Democrats Independents Now 3/2011 Now 3/2011 Now 3/2011 Approve 9% 18% 79% 78% 43% 46% Disapprove

2 Approval of President Obama s handling of the economy and the budget deficit remain low, while approval of how he s handling foreign policy particularly Libya has dropped markedly. Now 39% approve of his handling of Libya down from 50%. The March poll was conducted just after air strikes in Libya by the U.S. and other countries began. Barack Obama s Approval Ratings on Now 3/2011 Foreign policy 39% 47% Libya 39% 50% The economy 38% 39% The budget deficit 33% 31% But Congress fares much worse (as is historically the case). Just 16% of Americans approve of the job Congress is doing, while three in four Americans disapprove. Disapproval of Congress, now 75%, is just below the record high that was reached in May, Congress Job Rating Now 3/2011 5/2010 8/2008 Approve 16% 21% 15% 12% Disapprove % of Americans now think the country is off on the wrong track, the highest percentage since Barack Obama first took office. Just 26% of Americans think the country is going in the right direction Direction of the Country Now 3/2011 4/2010 4/ /2008 Right direction 26% 30% 34% 41% 7% Wrong track Policy and Budget Choices: The Debt Ceiling, Medicare, and Partisanship Americans overwhelmingly oppose the idea of raising the debt limit (often called the debt ceiling ). On this, most partisans find some agreement. Tea Party backers and Republicans voice the strongest opposition. Raise the Debt Limit? All Reps Dems Inds Tea Party Support 27% 14% 36% 27% 12% Oppose Seven in ten who oppose the raise still oppose it even if that means interest rates would go up. Spending discussions in Washington have also turned to programs like Medicare an issue on which partisan and age differences run deep. Americans overall say the Medicare program is worth the cost to taxpayers. Three in four Democrats think the program is worth it, but that drops to 45% of Republicans, while 44% of

3 Republicans say it is not. A similar percentage of Tea Party supporters think it is not worth the cost. Is the Medicare Program Worth the Costs? All Reps Dems Inds Tea Party Yes 61% 45% 78% 57% 41% No Overall, a majority of Americans thinks government has the responsibility to provide health care coverage for the elderly, and most also say the same for the poor. Does Government Have Responsibility to Provide Health Coverage to Yes No The elderly 76% 22 The poor 56% 38 But Republicans are far less likely than Democrats and independents to view health care for the elderly or the poor as a government responsibility. Tea Party supporters are even less likely to do so. Partisan Views on Government Providing Health Coverage Reps Dems Inds Tea Party Has responsibility for elderly 55% 88% 79% 47% Does not have responsibility for elderly Has responsibility for poor 25% 73% 61% 18% Does not have responsibility for poor Given the choice to cut government spending on either Medicare, Social Security or the military, most Americans would prefer to leave Medicare alone only 21% would cut it, while 45% would cut defense first. 17% would trim Social Security. Which Big-Ticket Govt. Spending Item Would You Prefer to Cut? Military 45% Medicare 21 Social Security 17 That doesn t mean, however, Americans think Medicare will go untouched in future rounds of deficit-cutting. Most Americans 57% - think it will be necessary to make changes in the program in order to lower the federal deficit. If Medicare does have to be cut, 48% of Americans are willing to go along. But there are big differences by age group, and willingness to make cuts in Medicare declines as Americans get older. Willing to See Medicare Spending Cut? All Yes 48% 57% 48% 47% 37% No

4 Americans are mixed on the idea of trying to reduce the deficit by changing Medicare to allow seniors to purchase private health insurance though again, seniors oppose the idea, and most young people, who are years away from using Medicare, back it. Change Medicare to Private-insurance program? All Approve 47% 53% 50% 47% 32% Disapprove But eight in ten Americans voice concern that such a change would impact Americans ability to stay in the middle-class. Rather than cut Medicare or benefits, Americans would prefer that recipients pay more into the system, especially higher-income Medicare recipients. 56% would rather see Medicare recipients pay more in taxes than have the benefits of future retirees cut. And 49% would like to see higher-income recipients pay more, compared to 24% who would raise the age Medicare recipients get their benefits, 11% who would raise premiums for all recipients, or 5% who would have fewer medical treatments covered. Battle Over the Budget Americans are dissatisfied with how both Barack Obama and the Republicans in Congress are handling the federal budget deficit six in 10 disapprove. Handling the Budget Deficit Barack Obama Republicans in Congress Approve 33% 27% Disapprove Most Americans don t think either the President or the Republicans in Congress have the same priorities for the country as they have though more think Barack Obama does. Do They Share Your Priorities? Yes No Republicans in Congress 32% 60 Barack Obama 43% 53 Most Republicans as well as most Tea Party supporters think the Republicans in Congress share their priorities, while most Democrats think Barack Obama shares their priorities. Most independents don t think either shares their priorities. In the recent negotiations to pass a federal budget for the rest of the fiscal year, Americans are divided on who showed stronger leadership: 39% of Americans think the Republicans in Congress did, while 37% of Americans think Barack Obama did. In the Budget Negotiations, Who Showed Stronger Leadership? Total Reps Dems Inds Republicans in Congress 39% 69% 18% 37% Barack Obama

5 A sizable minority of Americans say they wanted to see more compromise. 41% of Americans said the Republicans in Congress compromised too little in the recent negotiations, and 35% said the same of Barack Obama. In the Budget Negotiations, Did They Compromise? Republicans in Congress Barack Obama Too little 41% 35% Right amount Too much More Americans disapprove than approve of the job Speaker of the House John Boehner is doing 32% of Americans approve, while 41% disapprove and about a quarter don t have an opinion. Approval is higher among members of his own party: 52% of Republicans approve. John Boehner s Job Rating Total Reps Dems Inds Tea Party Approve 32% 52% 23% 26% 47% Disapprove Don t know And though he has been criticized by some Tea Party supporters for acquiescing too much to President Obama and the Democrats on the federal budget, more Tea Party supporters approve of the job Speaker Boehner is doing than disapprove. Overall, Americans are slightly more likely to trust Republicans in Congress over Barack Obama to make the right decisions about reducing the deficit, while they trust Barack Obama more to make the right decisions about Medicare and Social Security. Trust More to Make Right Decisions About? Republicans in Congress Barack Obama Reducing the deficit 44% 39 Medicare and Social Security 40% 45 Few Americans blame the Obama Administration for the current budget deficit. When asked to choose who they blame from a list, 41% blame the Bush Administration, while 18% blame Congress and just 14% blame the Obama administration. Who do You Blame Most for the Federal Budget Deficit? Now 4/2010 Bush Administration 41% 39% Congress Obama Administration 14 8 Someone Else All/Combination (vol.) Deficit Reduction and Role of Government Despite the recent talk in Washington about deficits, Americans are still unsure how budgetcutting impacts one of the issues they most care about jobs. Just as many say that lower deficits leads to job creation as job loss and many see no effect.

6 What Does Deficit-Cutting Do for Jobs? Creates jobs 29% Costs jobs 29 Has no effect on jobs 27 Given a choice between reducing spending to lower the deficit, or paying higher taxes, most Americans choose spending reductions. Americans have historically been opposed to paying higher taxes. Which Would You Prefer to Lower Deficit? Reducing government spending 58% Paying higher taxes 29 And 55% of Americans do not think deficit reduction will require higher taxes they believe it can be achieved without that step. 41% expect a tax increase will be necessary. Will Higher Taxes Be Necessary to Lower Deficit? Yes 41% No 55 Nor would most Americans be willing to pay more in taxes 52% would not. But 72% of Americans approve of increasing taxes on households earning $250,000 a year starting in 2013 in order to lower the deficit. In general, asked without mention of specific policies, most Americans say they d prefer smaller government providing fewer services to a bigger one providing more services. Republicans are especially likely to say this, as are Tea Party supporters, and independents also mostly agree. Democrats prefer a larger government with more services. More Government Services, Or Smaller Government? All Reps Dems Inds Tea Party Smaller government 55% 85% 36% 52% 89% More services The Economy The economy and jobs remains the top choice (39%) as the most important problem facing the country today. Though it is a distant second, the percentage that volunteers the budget deficit (15%) has doubled since last month. 6% mention health care and 5% mention the cost of fuel. Most Important Problem Now 3/2011 Economy and Jobs 39% 51% Budget Deficit 15 7 Health Care 6 5 Fuel Costs 5 1

7 Assessment of the national economy has worsened over the past month. Now 80% of Americans think the economy is in at least somewhat bad shape, including 36% who think it is very bad. Condition of the Economy Now 3/2011 1/ /2010 4/2010 Good 19% 23% 26% 19% 23% Bad And 39% of Americans think the economy is getting worse, not better. This percentage has grown by 13 points since just last month. Direction of the Economy Now 3/2011 1/ /2010 4/2010 Worse 39% 26% 21% 27% 15% Same Better This poll was conducted among a random sample of 1,224 adults nationwide, interviewed by telephone April 15-20, The error due to sampling for results based on the entire sample could be plus or minus three percentage points. The error for subgroups is higher. An oversample of Republicans was also conducted for this poll, for a total of 543 interviews among this group. The results were then weighted in proportion to the average party distributions in previous 2011 CBS News and CBS News/New York Times Polls and in the random sample in this poll. The margin of error for Republicans is plus or minus four percentage points.

8 CBS News/New York Times Poll The President, Congress, and Deficit Battles April 15-20, 2011 q1 Do you approve or disapprove of the way Barack Obama is handling his job as President? ** TOTAL RESPONDENTS ** Total Rep Dem Ind Mar11b % % % % % Approve Disapprove DK/NA q2 Do you feel things in this country are generally going in the right direction or do you feel things have pretty seriously gotten off on the wrong track? Right direction Wrong track DK/NA q3 What do you think is the most important problem facing this country today? Economy and jobs Budget Deficit /National Debt Health Care Fuel Costs War/Iraq/Afghanistan Partisan Politics Moral Values/Family Values Immigration Education Other DK/NA q4 Do you approve or disapprove of the way Barack Obama is handling foreign policy? Approve Disapprove DK/NA q5 Do you approve or disapprove of the way Barack Obama is handling the economy? Approve Disapprove DK/NA q6 Do you approve or disapprove of the way Barack Obama is handling the federal budget deficit? Approve Disapprove DK/NA

9 Q7 Do you approve or disapprove of the way Barack Obama is handling the situation in Libya? ** TOTAL RESPONDENTS ** Total Rep Dem Ind Mar11b % % % % % Approve Disapprove DK/NA q8 Do you approve or disapprove of the way Congress is handling its job? Approve Disapprove DK/NA q9 Do you approve or disapprove of the way John Boehner is handling his job as Speaker of the House of Representatives? Approve Disapprove DK/NA q10 Do you approve or disapprove of the way the Republicans in Congress are handling the federal budget deficit? Approve Disapprove DK/NA q11 How would you rate the condition of the national economy these days? Is it very good, fairly good, fairly bad, or very bad? Very good Fairly good Fairly bad Very bad DK/NA q12 Do you think the economy is getting better, getting worse, or staying about the same? Better Worse Same DK/NA

10 q13 If you had to choose, would you rather have a smaller government providing fewer services, or a bigger government providing more services? ** TOTAL RESPONDENTS ** Total Rep Dem Ind Oct10e % % % % % Smaller govt, fewer services Bigger govt, more services Depends (Vol.) Don't know/no answer q14 BLANK q15 In general, is your opinion of the Republican Party favorable or not favorable? Jan11c Favorable Not favorable DK/NA q16 In general, is your opinion of the Democratic Party favorable or not favorable? Favorable Not favorable DK/NA q19-29 SEPARATE RELEASE q30 Do you think Barack Obama has the same priorities for the country as you have, or doesn't he? Feb11a Yes No DK/NA q31 Do you think the Republicans in Congress have the same priorities for the country as you have, or don't they? Yes No DK/NA q32 Who do you trust more to make the right decisions about reducing the federal budget deficit -- the Republicans in Congress or Barack Obama? Republicans in Congress Barack Obama Both (vol.) Neither (vol.) DK/NA

11 q33 Who do you trust more to make the right decisions about Medicare and Social Security -- the Republicans in Congress or Barack Obama? ** TOTAL RESPONDENTS ** Total Rep Dem Ind % % % % Republicans in Congress Barack Obama Both (vol.) Neither (vol.) DK/NA q34 When it comes to dealing with the tough choices involved both in cutting programs to reduce the budget deficit and still maintaining needed federal programs, whose approach do you prefer -- the Republicans in Congress or Barack Obama's? Republicans in Congress Barack Obama Both (vol.) Neither (vol.) DK/NA q35 During the recent budget negotiations in Washington, who do you think took a stronger leadership role in coming to an agreement -- the Republicans in Congress or Barack Obama? Republicans in Congress Barack Obama Both (Vol.) Neither (Vol.) DK/NA q36 In negotiations about the budget deficit, did the Republicans in Congress compromise with Barack Obama too much, too little, or the right amount? Too much Too little Right amount DK/NA q37 In negotiations about the budget deficit, did Barack Obama compromise with Republicans in Congress too much, too little, or the right amount? Too much Too little Right amount DK/NA

12 q38 Who do you think is mostly to blame for most of the current federal budget deficit the Bush administration, 2. the Obama administration, 3. Congress, or 4. someone else? ** TOTAL RESPONDENTS ** Total Rep Dem Ind Apr10a % % % % % Bush administration Obama administration Congress Someone else All of the above (vol.) Combination (vol.) DK/NA q39 What effect do you think a major reduction in the annual federal budget deficit would have on the number of jobs in the U.S.-- would it create jobs, would it cost jobs, or would it have no effect on the number of jobs in the U.S.? Create jobs Cost jobs No effect DK/NA q40 BLANK q41 Do you think providing health care coverage for the poor is the responsibility of the federal government, or is this not the responsibility of the federal government? Government responsibility Not government responsibility DK/NA q42 Do you think providing health care coverage for the elderly is the responsibility of the federal government, or is this not the responsibility of the federal government? Government responsibility Not government responsibility DK/NA q43 If you HAD to choose ONE, which would you prefer in order to reduce the federal budget deficit -- raising taxes on people like you or reducing spending on government programs that benefit people like you? Jan11c Raising taxes Reducing spending DK/NA

13 q44 As you may know, the largest items in the federal budget are Medicare, the government health insurance program for seniors, Social Security and the military. If you HAD to choose ONE, which of the following programs would you be willing to change in order to cut government spending -- Medicare, Social Security or the military? ** TOTAL RESPONDENTS ** Total Rep Dem Ind Jan11c % % % % % Medicare Social Security Military DK/NA q45 Overall, do you think the benefits from Medicare are worth the cost of the program for taxpayers, or is it not worth the cost? Worth it Not worth it DK/NA q46 In order to reduce the federal budget deficit, do you think it will be necessary or not necessary to make changes to Medicare -- the government health insurance program for seniors? Necessary Not necessary DK/NA q47 In order to reduce the federal budget deficit, do you think it will be necessary or not necessary to increase taxes on people like you? Feb11a Necessary Not necessary DK/NA q48 In order to reduce the budget deficit, would you be willing or not willing to reduce spending on Medicare - the government health insurance program for seniors? Mar11b Willing Not willing DK/NA q49 In order to reduce the budget deficit, would you be willing or not willing to pay more in taxes? Willing Not willing DK/NA

14 q50 In order to lower the federal budget deficit, do you approve or disapprove of increasing federal taxes starting in 2013 for households earning $250,000 a year or more? ** TOTAL RESPONDENTS ** Total Rep Dem Ind % % % % Approve Disapprove DK/NA q51 What do you think lawmakers should include in a plan to reduce the country s long term budget deficit? If you had to say, do you think the plan should include tax increases for all Americans, or spending cuts in programs like Medicare, or should the plan include both tax increases and cuts in programs like Medicare? Tax increases for all Spending cuts Both DK/NA q52 Do you think that any deal to address the nation's long term budget problems should include tax increases on households earning $250,000 a year or more, or do you think the government should address the budget problems without raising taxes on those households? Tax increases No tax increases DK/NA q53 Currently, most Americans receive Medicare benefits once they turn 65. But the money Medicare takes in from taxpayers is not enough to pay for the program as it exists now. If you HAD to choose ONE in order to reduce the federal budget deficit, which would you prefer: reduce the future benefits of Medicare recipients or raise Medicare taxes on people paying into the system? Jan11c % Reduce benefits Raise taxes DK/NA q54 If you HAD to choose ONE, which of the following changes to Medicare benefits would you prefer in order to reduce the federal budget deficit: 1. raising the age people start receiving Medicare benefits, OR 2. raising the premiums all Medicare recipients have to pay, OR 3. raising the premiums Medicare recipients who have high-incomes have to pay OR 4. covering fewer treatments? Raising Medicare age Raising premiums for all Raising for high-income Covering fewer treatments DK/NA

15 q55 In order to reduce the budget deficit, it has been proposed that Medicare should be changed from a program in which the government pays doctors and hospitals for treating seniors to a program in which the government helps seniors purchase private health insurance. Would you approve or disapprove of changing Medicare in this way? ** TOTAL RESPONDENTS ** Total Rep Dem Ind % % % % Approve Disapprove DK/NA q56-57 BLANK q58 How concerned are you that changes to programs like Medicare and Social Security will make it difficult for many Americans to stay in the middle class -- very concerned, somewhat concerned, not very concerned, or not at all concerned? Very Somewhat Not very Not at all DK/NA q59 BLANK q60 There is a legal limit on how much the U.S. government can borrow to make up for its annual budget deficits. This debt limit has been increased regularly in the past with support from both parties. The government will soon reach the current debt limit and is seeking to increase it again. Do you favor or oppose raising the debt limit? Favor Oppose DK/NA q61 What if that meant interest rates would go up, then would you favor or oppose raising the debt limit? * OPPOSE RAISING DEBT LIMIT * Total Rep Dem Ind % % % % Favor Oppose DK/NA q62-72 SEPARATE RELEASE

16 UNWEIGHTED WEIGHTED Total Respondents 1224 Registered Voters 1116 Total Republicans (25%) Total Democrats (33%) Total Independents (41%)

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