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Obama says 80 percent of public backs his debt ceiling option. Really?

Obama said Friday that 80 percent of Americans back a combination of spending cuts and new tax revenue to whittle the US deficit and end the debt ceiling crisis. Not according to polls.

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At the very least, Republican voters aren't as rigidly aligned on the tax issue as the politicians of their party are.

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Still, polls don't suggest Republicans line up squarely behind Obama on the debt ceiling and taxes.

Another new nationwide poll, conducted by Quinnipiac University, asked the question this way: "Do you think any agreement to raise the national debt ceiling should include only spending cuts, or should it also include an increase in taxes for the wealthy and corporations?"

Some 48 percent of Republicans said spending cuts only, while 43 percent said also a tax increase. (Among all Americans, 67 percent favored the tax increase as well as spending cuts.)

In May, a Reuters/Ipsos poll also found more Republicans for a spending-cuts-only approach than for alternatives.

Given the rift between the parties, discussions on how to raise the national debt limit while also curbing future deficits have focused mostly on spending cuts. Democrats want to see some increases in tax revenue as well.

That need not involve a boost in tax rates for most Americans. One approach would be to restore Clinton-era tax rates on high-earning Americans, and to scale back the generosity of tax deductions.

In two recent polls, a majority of Americans urged politicians to "compromise" rather than oppose a deal based on political principles.

Outside budget experts say a compromise plan could go a long way toward restoring the nation's fiscal health. In his press conference, Obama also said, "We don’t have to do anything radical to solve this [deficit] problem."

That may depend on the definition of "radical," however.

Polls show Americans are reluctant to see cuts in entitlement benefits within Social Security and Medicare. The idea of reducing the national debt by making small cuts in those programs, coupled with a small tax hike, drew the support of 45 percent of Americans in an April poll by ABC News/Washington Post. But 53 percent opposed that idea.


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