Voters last week sent Washington a strong message about fixing the federal budget, according to exclusive numbers from a new poll obtained by TPM: Raise taxes on the wealthy and cut the military budget before you touch the nation’s largest entitlement program, Social Security.
The survey of voters who cast ballots last Tuesday — conducted by Democratic pollster PPP and commissioned by the Progressive Change Campaign Committee — found that when respondents were given the choice between cutting the defense budget, raising taxes on the wealthy and cutting Social Security to reduce the deficit, just 12% said they’d like to see the entitlement program cut. Forty-three percent said they’d prefer to see taxes on the wealthy go up, and 22% said cutting the huge defense budget was the best way to go.
The PCCC hailed the result as evidence that voters are not ready to embrace the conservative economic agenda, even after they just voted a huge number of new conservatives into Congress.
“This polling is remarkable,” PCCC co-founder Stephanie Taylor said. “If Democrats compromise on tax cuts for the wealthy, or entertain for one minute the idea of cutting Social Security, it would be both a policy disaster and a monumental political blunder — and they’d risk losing the Senate and maybe even the White House in 2012.”
The partisan breakdown of the results shows that Republicans, Democrats and independents agree that cutting Social Security is the least acceptable option of the three presented in the poll. It came in third among all respondents who made a choice. But the plurality of independents and Republicans said they didn’t know which option is best — 36% of Republicans said they were “not sure” which to choose among the three and 35% of independents said the same thing. Among the total sample, 23% said they were unsure.
On the campaign trail, Republicans rarely put the deficit solution in such stark terms. Most candidates referred to tax cuts and vague promises to slash government largess as the way to close the deficit. The polling suggests many Republicans and Independents — groups which overwhelmingly voted in favor of the House’s new Republican majority — still lean toward other solutions than those presented in the PCCC poll.
Democrats, on the other hand, have their mind made up. Sixty-six percent said they’d prefer to see taxes on the wealthy go up to shrink the deficit, 28% said they’d prefer the military cuts and just 3% said cut Social Security. Only 3% said they were unsure.
“Even among a skewed 2010 electorate with low Democratic turnout and high Republican turnout, there is a huge appetite for raising taxes on the wealthy and even taking on the military-industrial complex,” Taylor said.
PPP surveyed 548 voters Nov. 2 and 3. The margin of error for the poll is 4.2%.