A new Gallup Poll finds that a big chunk of America wants the new debt supercommittee to compromise — and the one demographic that doesn’t is composed of tea party members.
Six in 10 Americans say members of the new bipartisan “supercommittee” mandated to find new ways of reducing the federal budget deficit should compromise, even if the agreement reached is one they personally disagree with. This includes a majority of Republicans, independents, and Democrats. A majority of Tea Party supporters, however, say the committee should hold out for a plan they agree with, even if no agreement is reached.
Once again it’s the Tea Party supporters versus what is truly emerging as a literally “silent majority” of Americans with Tea Party members is the key demographic opposed to compromise. Why is this significant? (1) the Tea Party movement and talk radio show hosts have effectively guided the course of the Republican Party over the past year and will likely continue to do so, and, (2) the stage is now set on the supercommittee for it to be comprised of members from both sides who seem less likely to compromise, poll or no poll.
Speaking of which:
More from Gallup:
The debt ceiling legislation passed last week mandates Congress to appoint 12 members of the new bipartisan Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction by Aug. 16. The committee has until Nov. 23 to develop its proposals for reducing the deficit.
Standard and Poor’s downgrading of the U.S. credit rating on Friday, along with the generally downward movement of the stock market in recent weeks, may have reinforced Americans’ pre-existing preference for political compromise. Democrats (67%) are the most inclined to say the committee should seek compromise, but a majority of Republicans (55%) and independents (57%) agree.
Among the one in four Americans who identify themselves as “supporters of the Tea Party movement,” 53% would rather have lawmakers hold out for a plan they agree with, while 41% advocate compromise. Fourteen percent of Americans view themselves as strong Tea Party supporters, and 58% of this group (about 31% of all Republicans) takes the hard-line stance.
Asked about potential approaches the subcommittee may consider to reduce federal debt, a majority of Americans support increasing taxes on higher-income Americans, increasing tax revenues by making major changes to the current federal tax code, and cutting federal programs other than Medicare, Social Security, and defense. Less than half support the idea of cutting either defense spending or Medicare and Social Security costs as a way to reduce the deficit.
There is little consensus across political lines on any of these five approaches, underscoring the difficulties ahead for the bipartisan supercommittee. A majority of Republicans favor two of the approaches — cutting spending other than defense, Social Security, or Medicare, and changing the tax code to increase revenues. A majority of Democrats agree on the idea of reforming the tax code, but also favor increasing income taxes on upper-income Americans and cutting defense spending.
Taken as a whole, Americans clearly want their elected representatives in Washington to reach a compromise on the next step in the efforts to reduce the federal deficit. While the relatively small segment of the population that supports the Tea Party favors holding out for a plan they agree with, a majority of Republicans, independents, and Democrats mandate compromise.
As I’ve noted before, the problem now is not the threat of “Tyranny of the Majority” — but of Tyranny of the Minority.
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.