By Steven Shepard
July 19, 2011President Obama and Democrats aren't quite "winning" the debt-ceiling debate, but new polls released this week in the heat of the negotiations show that they're moving public opinion in their direction.
According to a new CBS News poll released late Monday, Americans are now split on raising the debt ceiling, a significant change from last month. Now, 46 percent say the debt limit "should be raised, because otherwise the country could default on its loans, causing severe problems for the U.S. economy." That is up from just 24 percent in June.
Meanwhile, the percentage of Americans who say the debt ceiling "should not be raised because the country owes too much money already, and raising it would cause long term economic problems," has dropped from an overwhelming, 69-percent majority in June to a bare plurality of 49 percent today.
A USA Today/Gallup poll, also released late Monday, shows that a majority of Americans now believes an economic crisis will result if the two parties fail to reach an agreement by the August 2 deadline declared by the Treasury Department. A narrow plurality, however, doesn't think Social Security and veterans' benefits would be delayed by the failure to reach an agreement.
The CBS News poll also shows that the Democratic argument for a "balanced approach" -- a combination of spending cuts and tax increases -- is gaining popularity. Nearly two-thirds of Americans want a budget and debt agreement that contains a combination of the two, while only 28 percent of Americans want the agreement to contain only cuts to spending.
But the polls contain warning signs for Obama and Democrats. The CBS News poll -- in numbers released earlier Monday -- showed a 48 percent plurality still disapproves of the job Obama is doing on the issue. And while the poll shows Americans are more likely to blame Republicans in Congress (49 percent) than Obama (29 percent) for the current standoff, the parties could share the blame if they fail to reach a deal by the deadline, and that failure leads to severe economic consequences.
Currently, according portions of the USA Today/Gallup poll released early Tuesday, Obama's approval rating stands at just 45 percent -- though that is higher than the approval ratings for Congressional Democrats (33 percent) and Republicans (28 percent).
The CBS News poll was conducted July 15-17, surveying 810 adults. The margin of error is +/- 3.4 percent.
The USA Today/Gallup poll was conducted over the same time period. That poll surveyed 1,016 adults, for a margin of error of +/- 3.1 percent.
By Steven Shepard
July 19, 2011