Post-Pew poll: Fiscal cliff negotiations predicted to fail

November 13, 2012

Most Americans doubt President Obama and congressional Republicans will avoid hurtling over the fiscal cliff before January 1, 2013, according to a new Washington Post-Pew Research Center poll

By 51 to 38 percent, more predict Obama and Republicans will not reach an agreement in time, and the survey finds widespread anxiety over the consequences of such a failure.

More than six in 10 believe a missed deadline would have an overall negative impact on the U.S. economy, and about the same number anticipate a blow to their personal finances, including 74 percent of those with incomes of at least $100,000. Without a deal, taxes will jump for nine in 10 Americans, with the steepest hikes for top income brackets.

Washington Post-Pew Research Center poll Nov. 8-11, 2012. Graphic: Erin Eastabrooks.

(See interactive poll results with breakdowns by group here)

The public is sharpening its focus on the issue, but Republicans are paying more attention than others and are more worried about the fallout of failed negotiations. Nearly half of Republicans are following the issue “very closely,” and more than seven in 10 Republicans anticipate negative consequences for their finances and the overall economy.

Only about half of Democrats see a mostly negative outcome for either the economy or their finances, and 31 percent say passing the cliff will actually help the economy. Economists predict inaction will throw the economy into recession.

But Republicans in Congress may face more public pressure to make concessions. Should negotiations break down to avoid the $500 billion rash of automatic tax hikes and spending cuts, 53 percent are inclined to blame Republicans in Congress while 29 percent single out Obama. 

If New Year’s Day 2013 comes without a deal, a panoply of fiscal band-aids -- from the expiration of Bush-era tax cuts to broad spending cuts -- would take effect.

Even with all the moving parts, nearly six in ten Americans says they understand the impact of impending tax increases and spending cuts at least “fairly well." Still, only about a quarter are “very well” informed and four in 10 report little or no understanding of the consequences.

The poll was conducted Nov. 8 to 11 among a random national sample of 1,000 adults using conventional and cellular phones. The overall margin of sampling error is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points. Click here for full question wording, results, and interactive breakdowns by group.

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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