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Behind the Numbers
Posted at 03:15 PM ET, 06/23/2011

Poll Watchers: Gas prices and the strategic oil reserve, Cantor and debt talks

- Strategic oil reserve – President Obama’s decision to dip into strategic oil reserves comes amid widespread concern about high gas prices – 75 percent say gas prices are an extremely or a very important issue in a new Associated Press poll. A 54 percent majority of registered voters opposed tapping the oil reserve in a May Quinnipiac survey. Support for this measure barely budged from late March to early May, a period that saw a 35-cent increase in the price of a gallon of gas.

Dealing with gas prices is a weakness for Obama in the new AP poll; his approval rating sits at 34 percent on this issue, with 63 percent disapproving. Gas prices have receded from their highs in May but are still well above where they started this year.

- Cantor and debt negotiations – House Majority leader Eric Cantor (R - Va.) pulled out of debt-reduction talks with the White House, citing an impasse over taxes, a message that jibes with his base. There is lower support among Republicans nationally for relying in any way on tax hikes to reduce the deficit and higher resistance toward compromising with Obama.

In the June Post-ABC poll, 52 percent of Republicans said the best way to reduce the deficit was through spending cuts alone rather than tax increases or a combination of both. Fewer Democrats and independents said the priority should be cutting spending, 23 percent and 38 percent, respectively.

In the midst of the budget fight in April, more Republicans said the people who represent their views should hold out for the budget plan they want rather than agree to a compromise plan. By contrast, two-thirds of Democrats and six in 10 independents favored compromise, according to an April Gallup poll.

- Exaggerating the debt limit problem? – How big of a problem will it be for the U.S. economy if the debt limit is not raised? Two newly released polls from Fox News and Bloomberg ask the question in different ways and get conflicting views.

The recent Fox News poll of registered voters found that majorities of Democrats, Republicans and independents said that predictions of a financial catastrophe if Congress fails to raise the debt limit are exaggerated. But a new Bloomberg poll found a different reaction, with 19 percent saying it would be a catastrophe and 52 percent describing it as a serious problem (another 27 percent said it would be a small problem or none at all). The Bloomberg question offered respondents a range of choices in evaluating the degree of the problem, where the Fox question offered an up or down response.

A Post-Pew Research Center poll last month found that almost half of adults – 48 percent – admitted they do not understand the consequences if the debt ceiling is not raised, though concern about what might happen was widespread. Three quarters said they were very or somewhat concerned that raising the debt limit would lead to higher government spending, but 73 percent were likewise concerned that not raising the limit would force the nation into default and hurt the economy. When forced to choose which worry was greater, 48 percent cited raising the debt ceiling as the top worry, and 35 percent cited not raising the limit.

By and Peyton Craighill  |  03:15 PM ET, 06/23/2011

Categories:  Federal Budget Deficit, Barack Obama, Congress

 
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