Now that the election is over more and more Americans are beginning to focus on the fiscal cliff that is now only a month and a half away. A poll released Tuesday by Pew Research shows there is widespread public concern about the possible financial consequences of going over the cliff.
According to Pew, more say the automatic spending cuts and across the board tax increases scheduled to take effect in January would have a major effect on the U.S. economy as well as on their own finances. But nearly identical majorities say the effect of the changes would be mostly negative for the economy (62%) and their personal financial situation (60%).
Despite these concerns, most of those polled have doubts that President Barack Obama and Congress can come to an agreement to avoid the fiscal cliff before the end of the year. About half (51%) say the two sides will not reach an agreement, while just 38% say they will.
One thing stands out in the poll. When Pew asked who would be to blame if a deal is not reached, the majority said Congressional Republicans. Of those polled, 53% said they blame Congressional Republicans and only 29% would blame the President. The rest either blame both (10%), neither (2%), and 7% said they don’t know.
Democrats are more optimistic that a deal can be reached whereas Republicans are more likely to believe there will be no deal. Among Democrats 47% expect a deal will be made and 40% do not. Republicans are skeptical 66% to 25% margin. More independents (51%) do not think a deal will be reached versus 37% who think it will.
If an agreement is not reached, Pew found, 85% of Democrats and 53% of independents say that Republicans in Congress would be more to blame. About two-thirds of Republicans (68%) say that if an agreement is not reached, President Obama would be more to blame. Obviously some rank and file Republicans are not happy with their party’s obstruction.
The poll discovered that many Americans say they do not fully understand the consequences of the tax and spending measures taking effect. According to Pew only about quarter (26%) say they understand very well what would happen if the automatic spending cuts and tax increases were to go into effect in January; 32% say they understand the effect of these changes fairly well. About four-in-ten (42%) say they understand the impact of these measures not too well (23%) or not at all well (17%).
Pew said there are only slight partisan differences in percentages saying they understand the consequences of the fiscal cliff: 64% of Republicans and 61% of Democrats say they understand the possible impact of the spending and tax changes. That compares with 53% of independents.
Even though a majority of Americans feel the fiscal cliff will be damaging to the economy, only 38% of those polled are following the story. That compares with 60% that followed the presidential election and 46% that are following Hurricane Sandy.
Even though voters are inclined to punish Republicans if a deal is not made, the defeated party is acting as though it won the election and holds all the cards. From all appearances Republicans will be just as obstructionist in Obama’s second term as they were in the first. If they do, they risk becoming a minority party. If a deal is not reached the CBO warns that unemployment will rise to 9.1%.
Voters made their choice on Election Day. They do not want partisan bickering, obstruction, or political posturing. They want results. We will learn over the next few weeks if voters will get the result they want, or the behavior they punished last week.
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