Voters Assign Blame in S&P DowngradeSeptember 12, 2011
In assigning blame for the S&P downgrade of the U.S. credit rating, Democrats blame Republicans, Republicans blame Democrats, and Independents blame everyone. Three-fourths of American voters think the downgrade is a very (40 percent) or somewhat (38 percent) serious problem for the country's financial situation. Voters split their assignment of blame between Republican-aligned groups (21 percent Republicans in Congress and 9 percent Tea Party) and Democratic groups (16 percent Democrats in Congress and 12 percent President Obama). Independents split blame almost evenly between all or a combination (26 percent), Republican groups (17 percent Republicans in Congress and 8 percent Tea Party), and Democrats (16 percent Democrats in Congress and 8 percent President Obama).
When asked a two-part question giving arguments for blaming "Tea-Party Republicans" or "the Obama Administration and Democrats in Congress," voters overall blame Tea-Party Republicans by a slim 45 to 43 percent margin, with Independents blaming President Obama and Democrats by a 42 to 39 percent margin.
By a margin of 46 to 38 percent, voters think raising the debt ceiling in exchange for substantial spending cuts was a bad rather than a good thing. Democrats think it was a good thing by a 51 to 31 percent margin, Republicans think it was a bad thing by a 66 to 25 percent margin, and Independents are split with 45 percent saying it was a bad thing and 40 percent saying it was a good thing. Given these patterns, the problem appears to be concern about raising the debt ceiling itself rather than concern about spending cuts.
The more serious a problem voters think the S&P credit downgrade is for the country, the more likely they are to believe that raising the credit limit was a bad thing. Voters who think the downgrade is very serious believe raising the debt ceiling is a bad thing by 58 to 30 percent. Voters who think the downgrade was somewhat serious split evenly on raising the debt ceiling, 42 percent bad thing/41 percent good thing. On the other hand, voters who think the downgrade is not that serious think raising the debt ceiling was a good thing by 56 to 30 percent.
Voters who think the downgrade is very serious but think raising the debt ceiling was a bad thing are largely people who believe the Tea Party movement has had a positive impact. This is an indication of the depth of cynicism toward Washington and fiscal "experts" that we have seen in our focus groups with Tea-Party supporters. They simply don’t believe that Washington cannot stop spending enough to stop borrowing. Nor do they believe the apocalyptic predictions of fiscal experts about the consequences of not raising the debt ceiling, any more than they believed that the financial system would collapse unless the government bailed out Wall Street with TARP in 2008.
Far more Americans are concerned that the super committee charged with getting our fiscal house in order will make too few rather than too many spending cuts. Large majorities of Republicans and Independents worry that the committee will cut too little (72 to 19 percent among Republicans and 55 to 31 percent among Independents); only Democrats are worried that it will cut too much (56 to 31 percent).
Read the full report: Voters See No End In Sight To Economic Decline; Debt Ceiling Debate Galvanizes Opinions Of President Obama’s Job Performance