GOP losing sequester blame game

February 21, 2013

Republicans would bear more of the blame for a failure to reach a deal on the looming federal spending cuts known as the sequester, but most Americans are tuned out of the debate and many don't oppose allowing the cuts to go into effect.


A new survey from the Pew Research Center and USA Today -- the first wide-ranging poll to look at the issue of the sequester -- shows a failure to reach a deal would lead 49 percent of Americans to blame congressional Republicans and 31 percent to blame President Obama.

This isn't all that surprising. As we noted Wednesday, Obama is much more popular than both Congress and the Republican Party, which means he's likely to come out on top in the blame game.

As we also noted Wednesday, a big reason for that is that, while Washington is in a tizzy about the sequester, the vast majority of Americans haven't paid much attention. Just 27 percent of Americans say they have heard "a lot" about the cuts, while 43 percent have heard "a little" and 29 percent have heard "nothing at all." Because Americans aren't paying attention, they revert to their overall impressions of the two sides.

There is a bit of good news for the GOP, though, in that many Americans have no objection to the idea of letting the cuts go into effect.

In fact, 40 percent say that, if a deal can't be reached, letting the sequester take effect would be preferable to another delay. In other words, people aren't as terrified as some in Washington might think.

Republicans have been saying for weeks that the sequester is likely to go into effect and have showed considerably less urgency in avoiding the cuts. Democrats, meanwhile, have proposed a number of plans, and the White House has even proposed another temporary delay.

The poll suggests many Americans don't see the cuts as being so bad, which means there might not be a huge amount of blaming going on -- at least initially.


Still, nearly half -- 49 percent -- say that they would rather Congress delay the cuts again, as it did at the end of 2012. And just 19 percent want a package that includes no tax increases -- as Republicans have been pushing for -- while 76 percent want to something with both tax hikes and spending cuts.

So again, Republicans seem to be fighting a losing battle -- even as it isn't a huge deal to many voters.

(Worth noting: most of those calling for a combination of spending cuts and tax hikes do want more of the former than the latter.)

All of this, of course, is still in the realm of the hypothetical. Just because Americans aren't paying much attention to the sequester doesn't mean they won't once it goes into effect. If the cuts have the massive impact that they are purported to and Americans balk at that, there will be plenty of blame.

At this early stage, that blame belongs mostly to the GOP.

Aaron Blake covers national politics and writes regularly for The Fix, the Post’s top political blog.
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Aaron Blake | February 21, 2013