Who "won" the debt-ceiling crisis?
It is that most Washingtonian of questions, vexing the inside-the-Beltway crowd after every major vote in Congress. By conventional political wisdom, Republicans would seem to be the winners, securing more than $2 trillion in spending cuts without a cent of tax increases.
But Americans offer a different answer: No one won.
A new Monitor/TIPP poll suggests that a majority of Americans blame all sides equally for the drawn out debt-ceiling saga and that neither party gained an advantage over the other. In fact, the president, Congress, and the tea party movement all took a hit to their favorability.
Generally speaking, Americans were conflicted about whether to raise the debt ceiling at all.
While 50 percent agreed with the move, 47 percent shared the view of the most conservative wing of the GOP – that the ceiling should stay in place. Also in line with Republican ideology, 55 percent said they wanted a smaller government that provides fewer services.
Regarding the deal itself, many respondents wanted more debt reduction. The agreement includes $900 billion in immediate federal spending cuts and then empowers a congressional committee to come up with at least $1.2 trillion more in deficit savings by the end of the year. If the committee cannot agree on further deficit reduction, $1.2 trillion in automatic, across-the-board cuts to defense and discretionary spending will take effect.
Some 67 percent said this deal did not go far enough.
Nor were they pleased with the process. Republicans fared worse than Democrats or President Obama when it came to assessing blame for why the process took so long – 30 percent blamed Republicans while 11 and 6 percent blamed Democrats and Mr. Obama, respectively. But the thin majority, fractionally more than 50 percent, blamed all parties.
The result is that neither party appeared to gain anything from the impasse: 30 percent said they'd be more likely to vote for a Republican in 2012, 27 percent said they'd be more likely to vote for a Democrat. Some 26 percent said it would not affect their vote.
Indeed, perhaps the clearest takeaway from the poll is that everyone came off worse.
- The crisis led 64 percent of respondents to view Congress less favorably. Only 8 percent see it more favorably now, and 27 percent said it had no effect.
- Almost half – 49 percent – now view Obama less favorably, while 18 percent have an improved opinion of him and 32 percent cite no change.
- And for the tea party, 48 percent see the movement less favorably now, compared with 20 percent who see it more favorably, and 28 percent who said it didn't change their opinions.
The small rise in favorability ratings for Obama and the tea party could be yet useful if it represents a galvanizing moment for their bases – something that could help them get out the vote in 2012.
The poll was conducted from July 31 to Aug. 4, when the details of the deal were becoming public and the bill was passed. Only those respondents who had heard or read about the issue were included in the sample size of 520, which results in a margin of error of 4.4 percentage points.