Who’s afraid of compromise? Not Democrats.

September 23, 2013

As lawmakers head into the thick of high-stakes showdowns over the budget, Obamacare, and the nation's borrowing limit, this much is clear: (1) Compromise is not a dirty word in the eyes of the American people, and (2) Democrats have a bigger appetite for leaders to compromise than do Republicans.

That's all according to a new Gallup poll released Monday that shows that, by about a 2-1 margin, Americans say it is more important for political leaders in Washington to compromise to get things done than it is for them to stick to their beliefs, even if little gets accomplished.


A look at the breakdown by political party reveals that Democrats are more enthusiastic about the prospect of compromise compared with Republicans. More than six in 10 Democrats say it is more important to compromise, while just 38 percent of Republicans say the same thing. What's more, nearly as many GOPers (36 percent) say it is more important for leaders to stick to their beliefs.

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So, what to make of the findings? A couple of things. First, as Republican lawmakers face a series of tough decisions on Capitol Hill about whether to find some middle ground with Democrats or not, it's clear that their base isn't as jazzed up about compromising as Democrats are. And that's further incentive for Republicans not to cede any ground.

Second, while the appetite for compromise among Americans is high, we need to keep in mind the question of what it means to compromise. In general, the idea sounds good to people, as the poll shows. But when it comes to specifics, different people have very different definitions of what it means to compromise and which positions/beliefs/asks are worth sacrificing and which are not. If the question of compromise was asked in a more specific way on a specific issue, we might well see a very different set of responses.

Sean Sullivan has covered national politics for The Washington Post since 2012.
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Ed O'Keefe · September 23, 2013