— Americans want Congress to delay steep spending cuts to give the economic recovery more time to take hold, according to a Bloomberg News poll.
When Washington does confront the deficit issue, Americans back a compromise that includes more tax revenue and fundamental changes to Social Security and Medicare, a deal that would require give-and-take by both Republicans in Congress and President Barack Obama.
Fifty-four percent of poll respondents favor postponing $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts during the next nine years beginning on March 1, compared with 40 percent who say Congress should act now before the deficit gets out of control, in the poll conducted Feb. 15-18.
"The across-the-board cuts that they're planning to do would do more harm to the general population than trying to wait and pick and choose which ones we really need," poll respondent Mark Seeger, a school psychologist from Valparaiso, Ind., said in a follow-up interview. "Right now, a lot of people are holding on by the skin of their teeth — they're opting whether to go to the doctor or have food — and I just think we need to wait until the economy gets back on its feet before we just go in and cut without thinking."
Almost 3 in 5 say the budget deficit should be curbed through a combination of spending cuts and tax increases on companies and high earners, as the White House has proposed, rather than focusing exclusively on spending reductions, as Republicans assert. Majorities also say overhauls of Social Security and Medicare — including changes disproportionately aimed at wealthier recipients — are "necessary" to lower the deficit.
"For now, Americans favor Obama's approach mixing cuts and new revenue to avoid a shutdown, and to let the economy that is perceived as gaining traction pick up speed," said J. Ann Selzer, president of Des Moines, Iowa-based Selzer & Co., which conducted the telephone poll of 1,003 U.S. adults. The survey has an error margin of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.