Poll: Actual Republicans don’t want to cut or tax anything

December 13, 2012

Heath-care workers and retirees protest proposed cuts to Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security outside the Aliquippa, Pa., office of U.S Rep. Jason Altmire (D).

Peter Suderman of Reason magazine summarizes a new McClatchy-Marist poll that gave voters a suite of options for reducing the deficit. Democrats in the poll support new taxes but oppose spending cuts. As for Republicans? Well, Republicans oppose everything.

Unlike the overall polling sample, a majority of the poll’s Republicans do not support raising taxes on the wealthy. But they don’t support any of the spending cuts mentioned in the poll either. Not to Medicare or Medicaid, and not to the tax loopholes surveyed either. Republicans, in other words, don't support much of anything except leaving things the way they are now.

You can read too far into these results. Few "want" to cut Medicare or Social Security. But they possibly prefer it to racking up more debt, or seeing government spending rise to 26 percent of GDP. My guess is that if the two parties come together and endorse a deal, that deal will prove relatively popular, even if it includes a number of unpopular component policies. (In this, it would be the reverse of the Affordable Care Act, which has popular component policies but is unpopular on the whole.)

Still, the McClatchy-Marist poll isn't an outlier: There've been dozens of polls finding that Republicans mostly don't want to raise taxes (though they occasionally want to raise them on the rich) and definitely don't want to cut spending. And you can see it in the policies their leaders propose.

"The unwillingness to face up to our actual long-term budgetary challenges," Suderman writes, "explains a lot about why the GOP’s last presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, talked a big game about cutting deficits and reducing the debt, but when asked for specifics focused heavily on small-ball spending cuts."

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Sarah Kliff · December 13, 2012