Poll: Americans Favor Compromise on the Budget

Over the last few weeks, we've seen several different budget proposals emerge from the Senate and the House, and President Obama is expected to release his FY 2014 budget next week. But while the budgets released offer some good ideas, none seemed to offer the bipartisan "grand bargain" approach that we often argue for here on The Bottom Line. As it turns out, polling suggests Americans may favor the compromise approach over all others.

Yesterday in Forbes, political pollster Doug Schoen comments on the findings of a new poll on the new Simpson-Bowles framework (different from the original Simpson-Bowles plan), which would replace sequestration with a smarter $2.4 trillion debt reduction plan to put the debt on a downward path as a percent of GDP to below 70 percent. The plan deals with all areas of the budget, reforms entitlement programs, protects the most vulnerable, calls for pro-growth tax reform, and addresses other spending. Schoen found that a 46-37 percent margin of those polled approved of the House Republican plan, with the same being true for the Senate Democratic plan by a 56-31 percent margin. However, 49 percent also believed that neither side had a realistic plan, implying that a compromise between the two approaches will be necessary. The Simpson-Bowles framework might just be that. Writes Schoen:

By an overwhelming margin—80 percent to 8—our respondents support the new Simpson-Bowles plan, which cuts wasteful spending, reforms our outdated tax code, and makes the necessary changes to entitlements such as Medicare and Social Security in order to protect them for future generations of Americans. This plan would reduce our debt by $2.4 trillion.

The plan stood up to scrutiny. When we gave specifics of the plan—including arguments against it that included cuts to Medicare and Social Security—support dropped, but remained between 56 percent and 65 percent favorability. Opposition to the plan never increased above 24 percent.

Compromise often sounds better in theory than it turns out in practice, but note that after pollsters gave a few details of the plan and an argument against it, a majority still supported the Simpson-Bowles approach. Clearly, Americans want to deal with our debt problem, and shared responsibility and a comprehensive approach is the best way to get there.

Smart deficit reduction should include reforms of entitlement programs and the tax code, which can be done in ways that protect the most vulnerable. In order for these goals to be realized, members from both sides of the political aisle will be required to meet somewhere in the middle. Schoen's polling data makes that very clear.