Barack Obama is fond of saying that “the majority of Americans” agree with him on his “balanced approach” to deficit reduction—which these days seems to mean increasing tax revenues through rate hikes and big defense spending cuts with relatively insignificant cuts elsewhere. At the beginning of his second term, the president appeared to be moving forward with an agenda that assumed the previous election settled the question of which party Americans liked more on taxes and spending. But a new poll from the Washington Post and ABC News shows Obama may not be winning the politics of deficit reduction.
When asked who they trust to do a better job “finding the right balance” between cutting unnecessary federal spending and maintaining necessary programs, respondents rated Republicans in Congress on par with Obama, with 44 percent preferring the GOP and 43 percent preferring Obama.
The president is faring a little better on who can handle the economy better, with 44 percent choosing Obama and 40 percent choosing the congressional Republicans. But the trajectory of that question isn’t in Obama’s favor; in December 2012, he was winning decisively on this question, 54 percent to the Republicans’ 36 percent. As the Post dryly notes: “Perhaps the last election settled little.”
Obama still has a higher approval rating (50 percent) than Congress (16 percent) and either party in Congress (Democrats, 34 percent; Republicans, 24 percent), but his approval is down since his reelection.
Also not getting high marks? The automatic budget cuts known as the sequester, which the president and Congress failed to forestall. While less than half of those polled say they believe sequestration will hurt their own personal finances, 64 percent say it will hurt the economy and 69 percent say it will hurt the American military. The high disapproval for the sequester comes despite the fact that 73 percent say they have not felt the negative impact of these budget cuts.