A new McClatchy-Marist poll finds that the percentage of Americans who don’t believe the sequester cuts are hurting the economy has actually jumped 13 points over the last month, while the percentage who think they are damaging the economy is going down:
When it comes to the impact of the automatic spending cuts on the economy, 40 percent of adults nationally say they have had no effect on the economy. 36 percent believe they have had a negative impact while 14 percent say the sequester cuts have had a positive one. 10 percent are unsure.
There has been an increase in the proportion of Americans who think these across-the-board spending cuts have had little impact on the nation’s economy.
When McClatchy-Marist reported this question last month, 27% of residents thought sequestration would not affect the economy. Nearly half — 47 percent — said the economy would be adversely affected, and 19% thought it would be positively impacted. Seven percent, at that time, were unsure.
On the personal side, almost two-thirds of adults — 65 percent — say these automatic budget cuts have not had any effect on their family.
So before, more thought the sequester would hurt the economy, 47-27. Now more are saying it isn’t hurting the economy, 40-36. Needless to say, that isn’t what Dems have been predicting.
The sequester is really just starting to kick in this month. So this could partly reflect the fact that national media figures were widely predicting doom at the beginning of last month, only to pivot to the narrative in late March that the White House had over-hyped the sequester and that it was turning out to be no big deal.
It’s certainly possible that the sequester will begin doing economic damage that will change public perceptions of what’s happening. We are already seeing widespread reporting in local papers and on local newscasts around the country on all the ways the cuts are hurting local economies and communities. But if this poll is to be believed, public opinion is trending away from the idea that the sequester is doing economic damage. It’s possible that its impact could prove too diffuse and scattered to impact opinion the way Democrats have anticipated.
Is there anything that can force Republicans back to the table to deal? The new McClatchy poll shows Obama continues to hold an edge on fiscal issues: It finds that Americans trust Obama over Congressional Republicans to make the right decision about the federal budget by 50-41. More blame Republicans than Obama for the current stalemate, 48-34. All of that could help put pressure on Republicans if the sequester’s bite does really sink in.
In an interview with the New York Times, Eric Cantor seemed to let the mask slip a bit on new revenues:
Even on the divisive tax issue, however, Mr. Cantor can sometimes sound as if he is leaving a door open. If Mr. Obama shows he is “serious about fixing the problem,” he said, “then we’ll see” about additional taxes.
But Cantor backtracked, and in any case, we’ve already seen that there is nothing Obama can do to prove he’s “serious” enough about spending cuts to get Republicans to acknowledge what he’s actually offering them. As Jonathan Chait notes, it’s looking more and more like the only hope is that sequestration will make Republicans feel as if they’ve proven their ability to stand up to Obama after the fiscal cliff debacle, allowing them to return to negotiations without feeling humiliated.
But if the public doesn’t grow convinced that the sequester is hurting the economy, Republicans will probably be persuaded that they should continue to hold out against any compromise to replace the sequester, in the belief that the public will come to accept it as the new normal. Which means the only way things will change will be if the sequester cuts in individual districts or states pressure individual Republicans to peel off from the party’s absolutist anti-tax stance, a process Obama will try to push along by continuing to appeal directly to officials outside the leadership who might be more open to compromise. If not, we’re stuck in extended sequestration.
UPDATE: I’ve edited the above to add the fact that the poll also found that more blame Republicans than Obama for current gridlock by 48-34.
UPDATE II: Cantor did not signal any openness to new taxes, his office says in a new statement.
“Leader Cantor did not open any doors to more tax hikes,” the statement says. “As he has repeatedly said, it’s time for Washington to address out-of-control spending with smart reforms and by cutting waste.”