This story is part of an ongoing series on Gallup.com on Americans' views on the role and performance of government.
PRINCETON, NJ -- A majority of Americans say it's more important that political leaders in Washington compromise in order to get things done, rather than stick to their beliefs, even as Congress heads for a government shutdown for the second time in less than two months because of partisan disagreements.
Gallup has asked this question three times over the past 10 months, and each time, Americans have tilted toward the "compromise" end of the spectrum. The most recent survey, conducted Sept. 8-11, marks the first time a majority of Americans have placed themselves on the "compromise" end -- a "1" or "2" on the 1-to-5 scale. A little more than a quarter (28% in the Sept. 8-11 survey) gave a "4" or a "5" -- the "more important to stick to beliefs" end of the scale.
Conservatives Divided Over Need to Compromise, but Liberals, Moderates Demand It
There are sharp political and ideological differences in these beliefs. Conservatives and Republicans are closely split over whether leaders should stick to their beliefs or compromise. However, the preponderance of moderates, liberals, independents, and Democrats favor compromise. But even among the more conservative segments of the population, roughly a third are at the "compromise" end of the spectrum.
Tea Party supporters stand out as the sole group that shows a clear preference for sticking to beliefs rather than compromising, 45% vs. 31%, although less than a majority of even this group chooses one of the two options at the "compromise" end of the scale.
Previous research from November and January showed that a slight majority of the small segment of Americans who are "very" conservative (11% of all Americans in the November/January samples) responded with a 4 or a 5 -- the only political group showing majority support for the "stick to beliefs" approach.
Americans faced the prospect of a government default on its loan obligations in the partisan wrangling that occurred prior to the Aug. 2 deadline for raising the debt ceiling. The default was averted at the last moment by an agreement creating a legislative supercommittee that has until late November to arrive at ways of cutting $1.2 trillion from the federal budget. The public's faith in government and satisfaction with the way things are going in the country were low even before the debt ceiling episode, and Gallup in its annual September Governance poll found some of the most negative readings on the public's faith in government in Gallup's history.
Now, Americans face the possibility of another government crisis if Democrats and Republicans in Washington cannot agree on a disaster funding bill this week. Republicans want the bill to include spending cuts, while Democrats are balking at that idea. The Democratically controlled Senate rejected a House bill on Friday and is scheduled to put forth its own bill shortly. The deadline for an agreement is this Friday.
Even if an agreement is reached this week, the continuation of brinkmanship government and constant partisan bickering will do nothing to increase Americans' faith in their government, and probably will hurt it. Democratic Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, when asked about the current disputes over the weekend, said: "Yes. It is embarrassing. Can we once again inflict on the country and the American people the spectacle of a near-government shutdown? I sure as heck hope not." It appears that many Americans would agree with Warner's assessment.
Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Sept. 8-11, 2011, with a random sample of 1,017 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.
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 sample includes a minimum quota of 400 cell phone respondents and 600 landline respondents per 1,000 national adults, with additional minimum quotas among landline respondents by region. Landline telephone numbers are chosen at random among listed telephone 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, cell phone mostly, and having an unlisted landline number). 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.
View methodology, full question results, and trend data.
For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit www.gallup.com.