PRINCETON, NJ -- Americans have slightly more confidence in President Barack Obama and the Democrats in Congress (41%) than in the Republicans in Congress (34%) when it comes to the looming debate on what the government should do about a more permanent extension of payroll tax cuts and unemployment benefits.
These findings, collected on Dec. 27 in Gallup Daily tracking, also show that about a quarter of Americans either don't have an opinion on the issue (10%) or say they have confidence in neither (15%) or both (1%) of the two partisan groups.
Last week, Republican House leadership reluctantly agreed to the two-month extension of the payroll tax cuts and extended unemployment benefits supported by President Obama and the vast majority of the Senate. The temporary extension forestalled an immediate tax increase for millions of Americans and a loss of unemployment compensation for millions more on Jan. 1. Undoubtedly, the issue will again take center stage as politicians in Washington return from their holiday vacations and face the looming Feb. 29 deadline.
Partisan differences in this confidence measure follow predictable lines. More than 8 in 10 Democrats have more confidence in Obama and Democratic leaders, while more than 8 in 10 Republicans have more confidence in Republicans in Congress. Independents give a slight 35% to 27% edge to Obama and the Democrats.
Obama Earns Better Marks on Job Done This Year Than Republicans
A separate Dec. 15-18 USA Today/Gallup poll finds Americans more charitable in their ratings of Obama and congressional Democrats than congressional Republicans. That poll asked Americans to more generally rate the job performance of elected officials in Washington this year. Thirty-two percent of Americans rated Obama's job performance as excellent or good, compared with the 18% who gave the same rating to Democrats in Congress and the 12% who gave such high marks to Republicans in Congress.
There is little doubt that politicians in Washington will again become embroiled in contentious negotiations over the extension of payroll tax cuts and unemployment benefits when they reconvene in January. The issue is particularly thorny because it involves not just tax cuts and unemployment benefits, which most members support, but perhaps more critically, the vexing issue of how to pay for them.
President Obama received a short-term boost in his job approval rating in Gallup Daily tracking just before Christmas, possibly a result of his unyielding stance on the two-month extension and his perceived victory on the issue over Republican House leadership. That boost was short-lived, however, and Obama's job approval rating has now dropped to where it was previously.
Obama and the Democrats in Congress do appear to have a slight perceptual edge as they enter into a continuation of the debate with Republicans next month. Whether the public continues to favor the Democratic position on these issues remains to be seen.
Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Dec. 27, 2011, on the Gallup Daily tracking survey, with a random sample of 999 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.
For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit www.gallup.com.