February 21, 2013

Pew Research released a remarkable survey this morning that gauges public opinion on pretty much every major issue facing the country. It is not an exaggeration to say that solid majorities of the American people agree with Obama and Democrats — and disagree with Republicans — on every single one of them. This is not a partisan observation. It’s what the numbers show:

Taxes and the deficit: 76 percent say the we should reduce the deficit with a combination of tax increases and spending cuts (the Democratic position), while only 19 percent say tax increases should be off the table completely (the Republican position). While a majority of those who want a combination of the two want it to be weighted towards spending cuts, that’s also the position held by many Democratic leaders (to the chagrin of the left).

Minimum wage: The public favors raising it to $9.00 per hour by 71-26. Even 50 percent of Republicans favor raising it.

Gun control: Americans favor passing major new gun legislation in the next few years by 67-29. Americans favor expanded background checks by 83-15, favor an assault weapons ban by 56-41, and favor banning high capacity magazine clips by 53-44.

Climate change: 54 percent say the most important priority for our energy supply should be developing alternative energy sources, while only 34 percent say it should be expanding exploration and production of oil, coal and natural gas. Americans favor setting stricter emission limits on power plants by 62-28.

Immigration: Here the picture is more mixed, but not by much. Forty seven percent say that border security and a path to citizenship should be given equal priority, while only 25 percent favor prioritizing only enforcement, and 25 percent favor prioritizing only a path to citizenship. But it needs to be restated that the combination of enforcement and a path to citizenship is the Democratic position. With the exception of a few Senators, most GOP lawmakers favor either enforcement only or a combination of enforcement and a murkily defined second-class status.

On every one of these major issues with the exception of the isolated assault and magazine ban policies, the GOP position is favored by roughly a third or fewer Americans. Now, in fairness to Republicans, in some cases (the economy, the deficit) Obama’s approval is lagging. But on the issues themselves, public preferences are overwhelmingly clear.

What’s more, in another striking finding, large majorities favor federal legislative action on every one of these issues this year or in the next few years. In other words, there is broad consensus around both the idea that the federal government should act to solve our most pressing problems, and around how the government should go about doing this. Which is to say there’s wide consensus around the Democratic vision of governing, broadly defined, while the Republican vision, broadly defined, is adhered to by a small minority. You’d think GOP strategists might find these numbers at least somewhat worrisome — and you’d think they badly undermine the notion that Republicans don’t need to change their ideas, only their packaging.

* GOP will take blame for the sequester: One last finding from the Pew poll, this one concerning the sequester:

Obama holds the upper hand politically over Congressional Republicans. If there is no deficit deal by March 1, 49% say congressional Republicans would be more to blame while just 31% would mostly blame President Obama.

The Times has a big piece this morning arguing that Republicans believe they hold the upper hand in the battle over the sequester. But given this finding, and given public preference for the Democratic solution to averting it — not to mention the state of the GOP brand in general — it’s unclear what the basis for that belief is.

* Chart of the day: Steve Benen has a good one illustrating the politics of the sequester in one easy visual.

* GOP’s numbers in the toilet: A new Bloomberg News poll piles on:

Fifty-five percent of Americans approve of Obama’s performance in office, his strongest level of support since September 2009, according to a Bloomberg National poll conducted Feb. 15-18. Only 35 percent of the country has a favorable view of the Republican Party, the lowest rating in a survey that began in September 2009.

It’s worth reiterating that the sequester “blame game” is not unfolding in a vacuum; its outcome will likely be influenced by each side’s general standing with the public.

* Dems hit House GOPers on the sequester: The DCCC is launching paid grassroots ads in the form of Web videos that target 25 Tea Party Congressional Republicans, arguing they are prioritizing millionaires over the middle class in refusing new revenues to avert the sequester cuts. At this point, the sequester seems certain, and the only real activity on both sides is an effort to lay the groundwork for the battle that will escalate in March over who’s to blame for any job losses produced by the cuts.

* NRA ramps up campaign against Obama gun plan: The NRA is going up with newspaper ads attacking Obama’s gun proposals in multiple red states represented by Senate Democrats — the sort of red state Dem who may be squeamish about embracing even the most sensible reforms. My question: Will Mike Bloomberg’s new pro-gun control PAC — which is explicitly about demonstrating that there’s a financial counterbalance to the NRA — spend big bucks on ads pushing back in these states?

* How GOP could declare victory in sequester fight: E.J. Dionne gets this exactly right:

Obama has public opinion in his corner. His proposal to avoid the economic drag of the sequester with a reasonable amount of deficit reduction built on a mix of spending cuts and revenue increases through tax reform occupies the debate’s broad middle ground. If the GOP wanted, based on its past positions, it could take a deal of this sort and declare victory, given all the cuts that have already passed.

This is demonstrably true. If Republicans agreed to a mix of revenues and cuts for Round 3 of deficit reduction, they could rightly declare victory in the sense that our short term fiscal problems would have been resolved mostly their way, through cuts.

* Hagel picks up more GOP support: Senator Richard Shelby will support Chuck Hagel’s nomination as defense secretary, the Huffington Post confirms. Shelby’s backing underscores the likelihood that Hagel will be confirmed when the Senate returns from recess, though some right wing media outlets are still frantically digging for whatever they can find — no matter how much of a stretch — to derail his nomination.

* And yes, we must raise more in revenues: A terrific piece by Jonathan Cohn lays out the big picture in the sequester fight: We simply must bring in more in new revenues if we are going to maintain any kind of commitment to seniors’ health care, and in order to avoid the sort of deep cuts that will damage the country. As Cohn notes, even if they say they dislike government, the American people want the government to provide an array of specific services — the federal budget is going to increase, whether Republicans like it or not — which means we have to pay it.

What else?

 

Greg Sargent writes The Plum Line blog, a reported opinion blog with a liberal slant -- what you might call “opinionated reporting” from the left.