PRINCETON, NJ -- Six in 10 Americans approve of the 11th-hour federal budget agreement that congressional leaders reached in time to avert a government shutdown. Support for the deal made on Friday is somewhat higher among Democrats than among independents and Republicans, 71% vs. 60% and 58%, respectively.
Few Americans see a political winner in the outcome -- with 5% saying it was a victory specifically for the Democrats, 8% specifically for the Republicans, and 20% for both. Rather, the majority of Americans, 56%, say the long-negotiated compromise was not a victory for either side.
Republicans are more likely than Democrats to believe their own party was victorious -- 16% vs. 6% -- however, the majority of both groups believe neither side won.
Partisans Disagree Over 2012 Budget Solutions
With one budget crisis behind them, Congress now finds itself staring at three potentially bigger challenges: passing the 2011-2012 federal budget, the prospect of raising the federal debt ceiling, and achieving long-term deficit reduction.
Americans offer different reactions to the Democrats' and Republicans' rival approaches to balancing the federal budget. They are generally supportive of raising taxes on households earning $250,000 and above, a key Democratic proposal. They are evenly split over making significant additional cuts to domestic programs, a major aspect of Republican Rep. Paul Ryan's "Path to Prosperity" budget proposal.
Republicans and Democrats largely support their own party's approach and oppose the alternative option, foreshadowing the difficulty party leaders in Washington will have in reaching consensus. Most Democrats and the majority of independents favor higher taxes on households earning above $250,000, while the majority of Republicans oppose this.
More than 6 in 10 Republicans favor further cutting domestic programs. About the same proportion of Democrats oppose this, as do nearly half of independents.
Don't Mess With Medicare
Ryan's budget proposes to completely restructure Medicare, replacing the current single-payer system administered by the government with an insurance premium subsidy system for seniors to buy private health insurance. Americans' general reaction to changing Medicare -- even when described as a way to control program costs -- is not positive. Thirty-one percent would like to see either a complete overhaul of Medicare or major changes made to the program, while a combined 61% say the government should make only minor changes or not try to control Medicare costs.
Support for revamping Medicare is essentially no higher among Republicans than among Democrats, 34% vs. 30%, and Republicans are actually the more likely of the two groups to favor not controlling Medicare costs (33% vs. 21%).
Americans mostly approve of Friday's budget agreement that will keep the federal government running through September, but few say it was a victory for either party. Whether this is because of the messy politics involved in reaching it, or because the $38.5 million in spending cuts was not, in fact, a complete victory for either party, is not clear.
Republican and Democratic leaders are making considerable noise about the federal debt, and Americans share this concern. President Obama is expected to spell out his vision for reducing the national debt in a White House speech Wednesday afternoon, and Republicans are expected to press for dramatic deficit reduction in the looming negotiations over raising the debt ceiling. With a divided Congress, the challenge will be, once again, to strike a compromise between Democrats' calls for higher taxes on the wealthy and Republicans' calls for deeper domestic spending cuts. At this stage, the Democrats' position seems to have the greater public appeal.
Results for this USA Today/Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted April 11, 2011, on the Gallup Daily tracking survey, with a random sample of 1,004 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, selected using random-selection methods.
For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points.
Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones and cellular phones, with interviews conducted in Spanish for respondents who are primarily Spanish-speaking. Each daily sample includes a minimum quota of 400 cell phone respondents and 600 landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas among landline respondents for gender within region. Landline respondents are chosen at random among listed phone numbers; cell phone numbers are selected using random-digit dial methods. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.
Samples are weighted by gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, adults in the household, and phone status: cell phone only/landline only/both, having an unlisted landline number, and cell phone mostly. Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2010 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older non-institutionalized population living in U.S. telephone households. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting and sample design.
In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.
Polls conducted entirely in one day, such as this one, are subject to additional error or bias not found in polls conducted over several days.
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