Americans Losing Confidence on Obama-Congress Budget Deal

Americans are losing confidence in the federal government’s ability to avoid automatic tax increases and spending cuts scheduled to take effect beginning Jan. 1, according to a poll released today.

The Gallup poll taken Dec. 21-22 showed 50 percent of respondents saying it was likely and 48 percent saying it was unlikely that President Barack Obama and Congress will avoid the so-called fiscal cliff.

A week earlier, in a survey taken Dec. 15-16, 57 percent said they expected a deal and 40 percent did not.

In the latest poll, more than two-thirds of respondents, 68 percent, said the two sides should compromise to reach an agreement. That’s up from 66 percent in the Dec. 15-16 poll.

Tax cuts initially signed into law by President George W. Bush are set to expire at the end of this year. Starting next month, automatic spending reductions to domestic and defense programs begin. The combined $600 billion effect would probably trigger a recession, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

The latest Gallup poll also showed increasing support for Obama and Democratic congressional leaders in the negotiations. A majority of respondents, 54 percent, said they approved of the way Obama was handling the talks, up from 48 percent Dec. 15-16, with 38 percent disapproving, down from 43 percent.

Democrats Gain

The way Democratic congressional leaders are handling the talks won approval from 45 percent of respondents, while 43 percent disapproved. That’s a reversal from the Democratic leaders’ earlier 34 percent approval rating and 56 percent disapproval rating.

More than six in 10 respondents, 61 percent, disapproved of congressional Republican leaders’ handling of the talks, the same percentage as in the Dec. 15-16 poll. Their approval rating declined to 26 percent from 29 percent.

The poll was conducted as House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio was forced to withdraw legislation to extend the tax cuts for everyone with incomes below $1 million, after failing to get enough support from his fellow Republicans to pass the bill. House Republicans voted to reduce funding for food stamps and other domestic programs to avoid the scheduled cuts in defense spending.

Before the failed effort, Obama and Boehner had been negotiating a deal to include about $1 trillion in new taxes, primarily through letting the Bush tax cuts expire for higher- income earners, and about the same amount in spending cuts, including a new inflation measurement that would reduce future increases in Social Security benefits.

Obama won re-election in November after calling for allowing the tax cuts to expire for families making more than $250,000 a year.

The Gallup poll of 1,076 adults had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jonathan D. Salant in Washington at jsalant@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Steven Komarow at skomarow1@bloomberg.net

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