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Americans Widely Prefer Compromise on Fiscal Cliff

Americans Widely Prefer Compromise on Fiscal Cliff

PRINCETON, NJ -- Sixty-two percent of Americans would like to see federal government leaders compromise on an agreement to avoid the "fiscal cliff" budget measures set to go into effect next month, more than twice the 25% who want leaders to stick to their principles on spending cuts and tax increases. A majority of all party groups favor compromise.

Preferences for Government Leaders' Action on Fiscal Cliff, December 2012

The results are based on a Dec. 1-2 Gallup poll, conducted roughly a month before the Jan. 1 deadline that would put into place major spending cuts and tax increases as a consequence of the failure of last year's federal deficit reduction "supercommittee" to reach an agreement.

Americans are a bit more optimistic than pessimistic that an agreement will be reached before the deadline -- 58% say it is very or somewhat likely that leaders will find a solution; 39% say it is not likely.

Democrats are much more optimistic that the government will find a solution than Republicans are -- 77% of Democrats believe it is at least somewhat likely that an agreement will be reached, compared with 43% of Republicans.

Expectations for Fiscal Cliff Agreement, December 2012

Obama Gets Highest Marks for Handling Negotiations

Americans are most likely to approve of the way President Obama is handling the negotiations to avoid the fiscal cliff measures, with 52% approving of his efforts. Americans are least likely to approve of Republican congressional leaders, at 27%. Slightly more, 39%, approve of the Democratic congressional leaders.

Obama's advantage may partly be the result of Americans' more favorable views of him than of Congress in general, given that his overall job approval ratings are near 50%, while Congress' as a whole are below 20%.

But clearly at this point, Republican leaders are perceived the most negatively on handling the fiscal cliff negotiations. That is in part because Republican Party supporters give their congressional leaders a relatively tepid approval rating, 55%. By comparison, Democrats rate the job their party's congressional leaders (75%), and the job President Obama is doing (86%), much more positively. Independents rate Democratic leaders slightly better than Republican leaders, 27% to 20%, but majorities of independents disapprove of both sets of party leaders.

Ratings of Government Leaders' Handling of Fiscal Cliff Negotiations, December 2012


Americans clearly want to see government leaders reach an agreement to avoid the fiscal cliff measures. The alternative, leaders sticking to their principles, could result in no agreement and major tax increases and spending cuts going into effect on Jan. 1 as scheduled. The fiscal cliff is looming precisely because Congress as a whole could not reach an agreement on deficit reduction last August when it raised the federal debt limit. Nor could the congressional supercommittee -- tasked with finding a bipartisan deficit-reduction plan -- reach an agreement last November.

To date, both Republicans and the president have put forth their own proposals, but each was rejected by the other side.

Nevertheless, at this point, Americans are more optimistic than pessimistic that an agreement will be reached. Whether that optimism persists as the countdown to the Jan. 1 fiscal cliff continues remains to be seen, and is something Gallup will continue to update between now and the deadline.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Dec. 1-2, 2012, on the Gallup Daily tracking survey, with a random sample of 1,000 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. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting.

The questions reported here were asked of a random half-sample of respondents for two nights on the Gallup Daily tracking survey.

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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