New poll shows a thoroughly mixed-up America

A new poll from the Washington Post and ABC News reveals mixed messages from the American public over the country’s budget crisis.

With regard to fixing the federal deficit, trust in congressional Republicans edged out trust in President Obama by a slight margin, but on the issues, those polled were supportive of Obama proposals while rejecting Republican cuts.

Overwhelming majorities — 69 and 78 percent, respectively — oppose cutting Medicaid and Medicare. The budget favored by most Republicans, introduced by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), would overhaul both programs, ceding control of Medicaid programs to state governments and replacing Medicare with a voucher system. Even if a Medicare voucher program didn’t result in cuts to coverage — a notion championed by Ryan but thoroughly refuted by experts (PDF) citing rising health care costs — 65 percent of respondents opposed vouchers generally and said Medicare should remain as it is today.

A full 58 percent disapproved of Obama’s handling of the deficit. This is a smaller number than the 64 percent who disapproved of congressional Republicans’ handling of the deficit, but still a significant majority. Yet 72 percent were in favor of raising taxes on those earning $250,000 or more per year. As previous polls have demonstrated, most Americans felt that a combination of tax cuts and spending cuts is the best approach to tackling the deficit — in this case, 59 percent.

On the whole, there was slightly more trust in Obama to handle taxes and protect the middle class than there was in Republicans. Similarly, 56 percent said Obama’s views on the issues were either “about right” or too conservative — compared to just 39 percent who said they were too liberal, while 55 percent said Republicans in Congress were either “about right” or too liberal.

Also throwing a wrench into obtaining a coherent picture of the national political compass in the poll is the fact that more people — 46 to 42 percent — trusted Republicans in Congress to handle the national debt over President Obama. The upshot of the poll seems to be a picture of an American populace that is either deeply confused or simply misinformed about the current situation in Washington.

Elsewhere, the poll results showed dissatisfaction with Congress across party lines on a level similar to that which has been expressed for nearly twenty years. Of the Americans polled, 63 percent disapproved of Republican job performance in Congress, while 60 percent disapproved of Democratic job performance. These figures are within a few percentage points of the results of every poll since 1994 (barring a period of slightly favorable views of Congress in the late ‘90s), when the Post and ABC News first asked the question.

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