Debt Deal: Looks Like Democrats Like It, Tea Partiers Hate It

Yesterday I pondered whether the debt agreement would be popular with the public. I’ve only seen one poll today, so we need more corroborating data for sound conclusions. But a new poll from CNN shows the debt limit deal is unpopular…with Republicans, independents and conservatives. But contrary to what pundits are saying, Democrats, liberals and moderates seem fairly happy with the deal.*

Three things stand out to me. First, there’s the so-called independent voters (who in this sample, based on the margin of error in the crosstabs, probably lean Republican). The independents don’t think the debt limit should have been raised, they think government should cut spending, they think the rich should be taxed, they think Obama didn’t give up enough while simultaneously thinking the Republicans didn’t give up enough, they disapprove of how Obama handled the debt negotiations, they disapprove much more strongly of how the Republicans handled the negotiations, they hate the deal…but they believe it will be good for the economy.


Next, the approval of the Congressional Democrats and Republicans. 66% of Democrats approved of how Congressional Democrats handled the negotiations, as did 56% of liberals. But only 59% of Republicans approved of the way Congressional Republicans handled the negotiations, and conservatives disapproved of the Congressional Republicans, 54% to 45%.

Finally, according to most of the pundits I’ve read, liberals and Democrats hate this deal. Again, this is only one poll with questionable sampling and questions, but it is evidence. And this evidence suggests the pundits are—shockingly!—wrong.

As you can see, liberals are split on the agreement, with a narrow majority favoring it, but Democrats—underscoring that they’re not the same—approve of the deal by an almost two-to-one margin. On the other side, Republicans and conservatives do not like this deal, and the tea party lovers absolutely hate it.

We need more (and better) polling before we can draw sound conclusions, but the first glance suggests, as is usually the case, that the people upset with their party are not Democrats and liberals as much as Republicans and conservatives…and now, probably, Tea Partiers as well. And that means that while there may be some validity to the notion that this deal leaves Democrats and liberals feeling deflated, the damage to the base appears more severe on the Republican side.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled “it’s all doom and gloom for the Democrats” programming.

*I’m going against one of my principles in posting this poll. I detest media outlets that release polls that don’t include demographic data about their sample. This poll doesn’t include breakdowns on sex, race, partisanship, ideology and the rest. But looking at the margin of error for each subgroup, it seems evident that it’s skewed male and conservative, it’s skewed heavily toward older voters, and the independents are probably heavily Republican-leaning. But again, without knowing the demographics, we need to be wary of investing too much in this one poll.

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8 Responses to Debt Deal: Looks Like Democrats Like It, Tea Partiers Hate It

  1. We’re doomed! I’m sure you haven’t got enough of this, so I thought you needed one on your blog.

  2. Cody Kessler says:

    Approving of the way members negotiated is far different from approval of the end result.
    Cutting spending on an already anemic economic growth of 1.8% is horrible no matter how many surveys you take (regardless of the “Dana Houle School of Keynesian Philosophy” that I witnessed yesterday).

    If you’re speaking of political advantage heading into 2012… it appears he got no advantage from the Indies he was seeking by this awful move to the canter. I certainly hope it was worth the high cost of all of the base he finally alienated with this deal. I suspect his only hope now is to double down on his commitment to end ALL the Bush Tax Cuts (upper and lowers wage earners) since that’s the only way of avoiding another protracted fight trying to decouple the two… just to raise only the tax on higher wage earners.

    But given his record… I’m not holding my breath.

    • Dana Houle says:


      You seem really confused on what I’m saying about cutting taxes. I reiterate, cutting taxes is stimulatory, especially when the taxes cut are primarily on those in the middle and lower ends of income and wealth; those folks spend the extra money in their pockets, because they’re living with less of a buffer anyway and that extra cash goes to purchases they’d been unable/unwilling to make. That’s basic Keynesian economics, and that’s why extending the Bush tax cuts in Dec and especially the payroll tax cuts were good for the economy. It’s the kind of thing you do in a weak economy, because cutting taxes has a similar effect to gov’t spending; it puts additional money in the economy. It’s not very efficient to give tax cuts to the wealthy, because they tend to save it and it doesn’t stimulate demand, and most forms of government spending are better than tax cuts for middle and high income earners. But the basic, conventional Keynsian approach to stimulating demand isn’t only spending on construction/social welfare programs/gov’t purchases and the like, it’s also putting money in the pockets of people who will spend it in the private sector.

      What ISN’T basic Keynesian economics is to cut spending in a weak economy. But that’s a decision independent of cutting taxes. The problem is that cutting taxes has become for the Repubs the equivalent of an antidote that is used for every malady; cancer? Take nansoma. Gunshot wound to the ear? Nansoma. Pellagra, anemia, Huntington’s disease, neurasthenia, gangrene…Nansoma for everything! But like the fictional nansoma, which may have specific sensible uses, tax cuts have specific sensible uses, and they should be employed in a weak economy, rescinded in a good economy (so as to not let debt get too high and thus have the gov’t spend too much on interest on the debt or risk raising interest rates too high).

      Now, is cutting spending in this economy good? Of course not. But a few things about that. First, this
      There wasn’t going to be a good/bad choice. All choices sucked.
      Second, this deal isn’t “good,” but it could have been a lot worse in the short-term. The spending cuts for FY 2012 are very small; something like a quarter of a percentage point. That’s bad; we should be spending MORE, not less, but I don’t think there was any way the Repubs would have agreed to not cutting some spending in the short term. At least the amount for now is very small, with almost the entire amount of cuts happening in 2013 and beyond, provided this isn’t overturned by a future Congress. I’m not holding my breath on this, because while I think we have a decent chance to win back the House, I’m not sanguine about the Senate overturning the filibuster, and the Repubs will block whatever they can (which is the root problem with the debt limit deal).

      Finally, on supposedly alienating the base, it didn’t happen. “The base” largely approves of the deal. Look again at the post, at the older post inked in the final paragraph, and there’s also this, which Greg Sergent posted a few hours ago
      Obama hasn’t alienated his base, and he appears to have less of a problem with his base than the Republicans do with theirs. As for “independents,” they’re not the target, the target is swing voters Swing voters include a lot of self-identified independents, as well as Democrats Obama could lose AND Republicans he can pick up. They’re specific to states and regions, and the calculations on how to get them can be complicated. I’m not saying that this deal lures any in (although it may), but I don’t equate people who identify themselves as “independents” with Obama’s target audiences for 2012. And even with the swing voters, he may not have gained anything with them on this deal, but it’s also possible he could have lost something and this avoided it. I don’t know if that’s the case, and I suspect nobody does except those–probably only the Obama campaign/DNC and the RNC–who are doing a lot of state-specific polling.

  3. Unitas19 says:

    First, terrific blog & twitter feed.

    I found the differences between your & Greg Sargent’s posts on the CNN poll really interesting. You focused on Democratic support & Republican disapproval of the debt deal while he focused almost entirely on messaging, specifically on the GOP winning the larger argument about government. Reading Greg’s post, it would be hard to tell that Democrat’s supported the deal.

    Greg had a post later about Obama’s continued popularity with Dems & liberals. I got the sense from it ( & others around the left blogs) that there is almost a disappointment with Obama’s continued strength among Dems & liberals as weakness here might get him to change messaging in a way that would satisfy left blogs more. You often see stray polls showing declines in this core quickly fired around left blogs. The far more frequent polling showing continued strong support often has a caveat about how it doesn’t measure “enthusiasm”.

  4. I’ve been feeling like I’m crazy because I look at the deal and think it really isn’t that bad if we have to cut things. Especially since I know the Bush tax cuts will expire unless they find other revenues. Like others have said the details of what’s being cut isn’t irrelevant but important programs like SS, Medicaid and programs for the poor were protected. I agree that the GOP has won the messaging war for now but that was baked in during election 2010 wasn’t it?

    Yes it sucks that we won’t get more stimulus that we desperately need but as far as messaging goes don’t we have a stark difference between parties right now? If we get a better Congress in 2012 we could perhaps stop some cuts and raise more revenue.

  5. ExNYer1995 says:

    In case you haven’t seen, USA Today/Gallup reinforces these numbers:

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