Poll: 85 Percent of Americans Support Requiring a Balanced Federal Budget

Posted: Mar 22, 2013 3:36 PM

In case you were wondering why Senate Republicans pushed so hard for the Sessions amendment last night, knowing full well that it didn't stand a chance in Harry Reid's house, here's your answer:

Both President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner recently said the country doesn’t have an immediate debt problem. Nearly 7 voters in 10 say they are wrong. Conversely, 27 percent agree the debt can be handled several years down the road. Voters are similarly at odds with Washington on the budget deficit. Almost all think the federal government should be required to balance its budget (85 percent) and believe reducing the budget deficit is a worthy goal “in and of itself” (85 percent). When asked about investment spending versus spending cuts, more voters say cutting spending to reduce the deficit should be a higher priority in Washington right now than increasing spending to create jobs (54-38 percent).

The Republican brand may be a smoldering mess, but voters still side with many of their policies, particularly on deficit reduction and spending restraint.  The House-passed Republican budget balances in ten years without raising taxes.  Neither Senate Democrats' plan nor the president's yet-unseen proposal ever achieves balance, now or in the future.  More than eight in ten Americans think that result is wrong.  Democrats have given Republicans an opening to return to the tried and true "tax and spend liberal" line of attack.  The GOP isn't going to let the opportunity slip away:

The message of bringing the federal government’s books into balance — the central idea behind the Wisconsin lawmaker’s 2014 spending plan — was quietly tested in 18 competitive House races in a late-February poll by the National Republican Congressional Committee. It was a winning argument across a broad swath of politically moderate — and nearly split — districts…The internal party polling shows that Republicans think there’s massive political upside to talking about balancing the budget. In fact, Republican leadership think it’s the winning argument as the party again starts battling with Democrats over the nation’s fiscal future… The poll showed that 45 percent of Democratic voters think “balancing … the federal budget would significantly increase economic growth and create millions of American jobs.” A sky-high 61 percent of independents and 76 percent of Republicans agree.

As I mentioned earlier, Republicans are already loading the 'unbalanced budget' fodder into their campaign cannons:

The Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC with ties to House Speaker John Boehner, released its first series of television ads for the 2014 mid-term elections, a signal that Republicans plan to play offense in the messaging battle over their budget. The ads, seen first at Yahoo News, target Democratic Reps. Joe Garcia of Florida and Sean Maloney of New York for voting against the Republican budget resolution, which the House approved Thursday. The identical spots emphasize that Ryan's proposal balances the budget within 10 years, and they will air during cable programs popular with women in their districts. The initial buy is very small--just $300 in Florida and $900 in New York for four days of cable ads, according to a media source--but it offers a peek into how Republicans will defend the budget until Election Day...The ad is part of a larger House Republican strategy to emphasize the balanced budget aspect of the Ryan proposal in their messaging efforts.  

The Fox News poll quoted above (which also contains some interesting data on the public's reaction to sequestration) isn't the only new survey that should worry Democrats.  As we've seen in recent weeks, President Obama's job approval has slid back into the 40s, suggesting that his post re-election honeymoon has evaporated.  Pew Research is the latest arrival at the party:

Barack Obama’s job approval rating has tumbled since shortly after his re-election, as the public’s economic expectations for the coming year have soured. Despite substantial public awareness of recent gains in the stock market and rebounding real-estate values, the percentage saying economic conditions will get worse over the next year has risen to its highest point in nearly eight years. Obama’s job approval measure has fallen eight points since December, from 55% to 47%. His rating is comparable to George W. Bush’s (45%) at the same point early in his second term and is much lower than Bill Clinton’s 60% rating in February 1997.

The poll shows that Americans have grown increasingly pessimistic about the economy since last year.  

UPDATE - Sen. Jeff Sessions has had about enough of Democrats using the word "balanced" to describe their demonstrably unbalanced budget: