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Americans Still Think Obama Will Seek Bipartisan Solutions

Americans Still Think Obama Will Seek Bipartisan Solutions

More expect the Democrats than the Republicans in Congress to reach across the aisle

PRINCETON, NJ -- Nearly two-thirds of Americans, 65%, believe President Barack Obama will make a sincere effort to work with the Republicans in Congress to find mutually acceptable solutions to the nation's problems. A majority, 57%, also expect the Democrats in Congress to try to work with the opposing party's leaders, but fewer than half, 48%, say the same of the Republicans in Congress.

Trend: Percentage Saying Each Will Make Sincere Effort to Work With Leadership of Other Party to Find Solutions Acceptable to Both Parties

Confidence in Obama to seek bipartisan solutions in the Nov. 9-12 USA Today/Gallup poll is similar to where it stood in November 2010, two years into Obama's term and after Republicans won control of the House of Representatives in the midterm elections, but is down from a lofty 80% in 2008. Confidence in the two major parties in Congress is up slightly from 2010; however, given the Republicans' sharp drop on this measure between 2008 and 2010, they still lag behind the Democrats.

Vast Majority of U.S. Democrats Say Their Leaders Will Work With GOP

Democrats are nearly unanimous in believing Obama will try earnestly to work with the Republicans (98% say he will), and nearly as many (89%) are confident the Democrats in Congress will do the same.

By contrast, less than two-thirds of Republicans (64%) believe the Republicans in Congress will make a sincere effort to work with Obama and the Democrats in Congress.

Percentages Saying Each Will Make Sincere Effort to Reach Bipartisan Solutions -- by Party ID, November 2012

Republicans' subdued outlook for their own party leaders' bipartisanship may be more of a wish than a criticism -- with some rank-and-file Republicans preferring that their leaders oppose Obama's legislative agenda rather than seek compromise. By the same token, the greater willingness of Democrats than Republicans to believe the opposing party will seek bipartisan solutions (38% vs. 27%) may reflect the former's hopes that the Republicans will bend in the coming year.

Despite Democrats' nearly unanimous belief that their own leaders will reach across the aisle, a different question in the same poll found closer to two-thirds of Democrats saying the country would benefit most if leaders of the two major parties in Washington compromise equally in order to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff. At the same time, as Gallup previously reported, 25% of Democrats say the country would most benefit by having the Republicans compromise more, similar to the percentage of Republicans saying the country would benefit from greater compromise on the part of Democrats (26%).

Overall, two-thirds of Americans say the best outcome for the country would be for both sides to compromise equally in the current negotiations.

Who Should Compromise More in Upcoming Budget Negotiations? November 2012

Bottom Line

Americans are less sure about bipartisan impulses in Washington today than they were four years ago, after Obama's victory in the 2008 election. However, overall, Americans are slightly more confident now that leaders will seek mutually acceptable solutions than they were after the November 2010 elections establishing the divided government that continues today.

The need to reach a budget compromise before New Year's, and thus avert automatic spending cuts and tax increases nobody wants, provides an immediate test of whether both sides will live up to Americans' expectations for bipartisanship. These expectations are highest for Obama, but are also significant for both parties in Congress.

Survey Methods

Results for this USA Today/Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Nov. 9-12, 2012, with a random sample of 1,009 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 cellphone 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. Cellphone 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, population density, and phone status (cellphone only/landline only/both, cellphone mostly, and having an unlisted landline number). Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2011 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older population living in U.S. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting.

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

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