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Voters Divided Between Candidate Who Promises Debt Reduction with Only Spending Cuts and One Who Calls for “Balanced Approach”

The debt ceiling debate has highlighted the political difficulty of coming to grips with the federal government’s massive debt. Voters now are almost evenly divided over whether they prefer a congressman who would reduce that debt with spending cuts only or opt for a mix of spending cuts and tax increases.

Forty-six percent (46%) of Likely U.S. Voters are more likely to support a candidate for Congress who says the federal debt should be reduced with only spending cuts, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey. Forty-eight percent (48%) are more inclined to favor a candidate who thinks a balanced approach including spending cuts and increased tax revenue is needed to reduce the debt. (To see survey question wording, click here.) 

The emphasis on spending cuts to reduce the debt rather than avoiding tax hikes generates a more evenly divided electorate than a match between a candidate whose primary objective is to oppose tax hikes and one who wants to use a balanced approach to reducing the debt. Voters prefer a balanced approach candidate over a no new taxes candidate by a 56% to 34% margin.

“These results show just how focused the American people are on reducing the federal debt,” noted Scott Rasmussen, president of Rasmussen Reports. “Most simply believe that it is unconscionable to pass on such an enormous burden to our children and grandchildren. They want to see government spending cut but don’t expect their politicians to deliver.”

Data released earlier shows that voters overwhelmingly believe that a government default would be bad for the economy but that failure to make big cuts in government spending would be even worse.

Even now, voters are divided on whether their elected politicians should avoid default by supporting a bad compromise. Forty percent (40%) think their congressional representative should vote even for a disappointing bill if it raises the debt ceiling, but a plurality (47%) would rather see their legislator vote against raising the debt ceiling and wait for a better bill. Most Democrats (58%) would rather pass a disappointing bill to avoid a government default. Sixty-four percent (64%) of Republicans and a modest plurality (45%) of unaffiliated voters would rather have their congressman vote against raising the debt ceiling and wait for a better bill.

Similarly, 64% of the Political Class would rather have their representative support a disappointing bill if that’s what it takes to raise the debt ceiling. Most Mainstream voters (52%) would risk default to get a better bill.

(Want a free daily e-mail update ? If it's in the news, it's in our polls). Rasmussen Reports updates are also available on Twitter  or Facebook .

The national telephone survey of 1,000 Likely Voters was conducted on July 30-31, 2011 by Rasmussen Reports. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence. Field work for all Rasmussen Reports surveys is conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, LLC. See methodology.

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