The Public and the Deficit: Consensus in Principle, Resistance in Practice

  • December 09, 2010

In many respects, there is a broad public consensus when it comes to the federal budget deficit: seven-in-ten say it is a major problem that must be addressed right away, and roughly two-thirds say that the best way to reduce the deficit is through a combination of cutting major government programs and increasing taxes. These views cross partisan lines, with majorities of Republicans, Democrats and independents saying we must deal with it now, and that the best approach involves both program cuts and tax increases.

Yet this general consensus evaporates when concrete deficit reduction proposals are tested. And the Bowles-Simpson commission's effort to package spending cuts and tax increases into a comprehensive package has met with far more public opposition than support. Among those who have heard of the deficit commission's proposal, 48% disapprove and just 30% approve.

The latest national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted Dec. 1-5 among 1,500 adults, finds that most of the major deficit reduction proposals under discussion meet with public disapproval. Particularly unpopular are provisions that would tax the health insurance people receive from their employers (72% disapprove), raise the national gasoline tax (74% disapprove), and reduce federal funding to states for things like education and roads (71% disapprove).

Read the full report, Deficit Solutions Meet With Public Skepticism on the Pew Research Center for the People & The Press Web site.