Obama holds (slight) edge in trust on debt limit

With fewer than one in five Americans saying they understand the consequences of a default “very well” and wide ranging support for potential components of a compromise, gut level trust may be among the best indicators of who is winning the battle for public opinion in the fight over raising the debt limit.


Not surprisingly, trust is highly polarized along party lines – 85 percent of Democrats said they trust Obama more while 86 percent of Republicans sided with congressional Republicans. But ratings of the economy are also connected with trust in debt negotiations. Republicans hold an 18 point advantage – 50 to 32 percent – among those who said the economy is “poor,” but Obama holds a 60 to 31 percent edge among those who said the economy is simply “not so good.” And people who are “angry” about the way the federal government works trust Republicans by 49 to 32 percent, while those who are “dissatisfied but not angry” give Obama a 46 to 40 percent advantage.

 A pox on both houses

Despite his narrow head-to-head advantage on trust, six in 10 Americans disapproved of the way the president is handling the budget deficit in the poll released last week. An even higher 68 percent disapproved of congressional Republicans on the issue. Slightly more said they’d blame Republicans than Democrats if the debt ceiling is not raised and the government fails to send out social security checks, pay salaries or meet bondholder obligations, 42 to 36 percent. But in a telling sign of a pox on both houses, fully 19 percent volunteer that both Obama and congressional Republicans would be to blame if the government goes into default.

Read the full poll results.

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Scott Clement is a survey research analyst for The Washington Post. Scott specializes in public opinion about politics, election campaigns and public policy.
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