Friday, December 07, 2012
President Obama is winning the messaging wars in the "fiscal cliff" debate largely because Republicans aren't even in the game.
The GOP leadership in Washington keeps talking as if the issue is deficit reduction, while the president is talking about fairness.
Consider the numbers. Sixty-one percent of voters want to see a deal reached to avoid the big Jan. 1 tax hikes and across-the-board spending cuts, and 68 percent want the deal to include a combination of both tax hikes and spending cuts. By a 2-to-1 margin, voters would like to see more spending cuts than tax hikes.
Instead, the president's proposal includes $4 of tax hikes for every dollar of spending cuts, and the spending cuts are nothing more than a promise to work something out next year.
If the issue was really deficit reduction, the president's proposal would leave the GOP in fine shape. But the president has the upper hand politically, and voters see him as more willing to negotiate in good faith.
To understand why, start with the fact that 57 percent of voters favor raising taxes on people who earn more than $250,000 a year. Republicans complain that this isn't enough to make a dent in the deficit. Voters understand that already: Just 19 percent of voters think it is possible to balance the federal budget primarily by raising taxes on upper-income Americans.
Add to that the fact that voters don't expect much substance to emerge from the fiscal cliff debate. If no deal is reached, taxes will go up on just about everyone, and there will be modest reductions in proposed spending growth. If a deal is reached, six out of 10 expect the deal to lead to higher middle-class taxes, and only one out of three think spending will go down. In other words, most people expect pretty much the same result whether or not a deal is reached.
In this environment, the president has proposed a policy that addresses a perceived level of unfairness in the nation's economic arrangements. Whether it's the best approach doesn't even matter because Republicans in Washington haven't even tried to address the fairness issue. They keep arguing about economic theories.
As a result, 52 percent of voters now prefer a candidate who promises to raise taxes on the wealthy, while just 34 percent favor a candidate who opposes all tax hikes.
This highlights a larger problem faced by the Republican establishment. While most voters see Democrats as the party of big government, Republicans spend more time talking about government. They complain that it's too big, imposes too many regulations and has unsustainable deficits.
Under Obama, Democrats talk less about government and more about how their policies will affect life in America. It's the end result that a pragmatic nation cares about, not the policies.
For Republicans to succeed, they need to recognize that most voters don't care about limited government. But voters care deeply about the type of society a limited government makes possible.
Applying that logic to the current debate over the fiscal cliff, Republicans in Washington need to recognize that few voters believe this is a serious debate about deficit reduction. The president has made it instead a debate about fairness, and they need to respond on that level.
COPYRIGHT 2012 SCOTT RASMUSSEN
DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM
See Other Political Commentaries.
See Other Commentaries by Scott Rasmussen.
Rasmussen Reports is a media company specializing in the collection, publication and distribution of public opinion information.
We conduct public opinion polls on a variety of topics to inform our audience on events in the news and other topics of interest. To ensure editorial control and independence, we pay for the polls ourselves and generate revenue through the sale of subscriptions, sponsorships, and advertising. Nightly polling on politics, business and lifestyle topics provides the content to update the Rasmussen Reports web site many times each day. If it's in the news, it's in our polls. Additionally, the data drives a daily update newsletter and various media outlets across the country.
Some information, including the Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll and commentaries are available for free to the general public. Subscriptions are available for $3.95 a month or 34.95 a year that provide subscribers with exclusive access to more than 20 stories per week on upcoming elections, consumer confidence, and issues that affect us all. For those who are really into the numbers, Platinum Members can review demographic crosstabs and a full history of our data.
To learn more about our methodology, click here.