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Post-Election Survey: Despite Polarization, Broad Support for Balanced Approach in Budget Debate

16 Nov

For Immediate Release

Rabinowitz-Dorf Communications

Agreement on the values that should guide the debate; disagreement on the details of taxes and cuts

WASHINGTON — As the White House and Congress look toward the looming fiscal cliff, a new survey finds that despite deep partisan divides on the role of government, there is broad support for a balanced approach that combines both spending cuts and raising taxes.

Although Republican voters disagree with Democratic and independent voters that government should do more to reduce the gap between the rich and the poor, the 2012 post-election American Values Survey conducted by Public Religion Research Institute finds that there is widespread agreement on strategies to address the budget deficit. Seventy-one percent of voters, including majorities of Republicans (52 percent), Democrats (83 percent) and independents (78 percent), favor a combination of cutting major programs and increasing taxes.

“Even in the wake of a deeply divisive election, both Democratic and Republican voters signal that they are ready for a balanced approach to tackling the nation’s budget woes,” said Dr. Robert P. Jones, CEO of Public Religion Research Institute.

PRRI’s analysis draws on findings from both a national panel survey that re-interviewed respondents from its October American Values Survey, and a new post-election Ohio Values Survey.

The survey also finds agreement on the broad values and principles that should guide budget decisions, with strong majorities of voters agreeing that living within our means (83 percent), promoting individual responsibility and self-sufficiency (72 percent), investing in the future (71 percent), and protecting poor and vulnerable Americans (61 percent) are very important.

“Voters are united on the principles that should guide the budget debate, but the devil is in the details,” said Daniel Cox, director of research at PRRI. “It’s difficult to get voters to agree across party lines about which taxes should be raised, and which programs should be cut.”

More than six-in-ten (63 percent) voters favor increasing taxes on Americans making at least $250,000 per year. However, there are strong partisan divides: nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of Republican voters oppose increasing taxes on Americans making more than $250,000 per year, while nearly 9-in-10 (87 percent) Democratic voters and nearly two-thirds (66 percent) of independent voters favor this proposal.

Republican and Democratic voters also disagree on which specific budget cuts are needed to close the deficit, the survey finds. Overall, nearly 7-in-10 (69 percent) voters oppose cutting funding for the military and nearly two-thirds (66 percent) oppose cutting federal funding for social programs that help the poor. A slim majority (53 percent) of Republican voters favor cutting federal funding for social programs to help the poor, while more than 8-in-10 (86 percent) Democratic voters and nearly 7-in-10 (68 percent) independent voters oppose those cuts.

Among the findings:

More than 8-in-10 (83 percent) Republican voters believe that the government is providing too many social programs that should be left to religious groups and private charities, while nearly 8-in-10 (77 percent) Democratic voters disagree.

Nearly half (49 percent) of all voters say people like them pay the right amount in taxes.

  • More than 4-in-10 (42 percent) voters say they pay too much in taxes, and only 7 percent say they pay too little.
  • A slim majority (52 percent) of independent voters and half (50 percent) of Democratic voters say that people like them pay the right amount in taxes.
  • Republicans are more divided: 49 percent say they pay too much, and 46 percent say they pay the right amount.

Voters are evenly divided on the best way to promote economic growth in the United States. When asked to choose between two options, nearly half (47 percent) of voters say the government should lower taxes on individuals and businesses and pay for those tax cuts by cutting spending on some government services and programs, while a nearly equal number (46 percent) disagree, saying that the government should spend more on education and the nation’s infrastructure, and raise taxes on wealthy individuals and businesses to pay for that spending.

Public Religion Research Institute is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, nonpartisan organization specializing in research at the intersection of religion, values and public life. The Post-Election American Values Survey and the Ohio Values Survey were made possible by generous funding from the Ford Foundation, the Nathan Cummings Foundation, and the Civic Participation Research Fund at the New World Foundation.

The Post-election American Values Survey and the Ohio Values Survey were designed and conducted by Public Religion Research Institute. Results from the Post-election American Values Survey were based on 1,410 callback bilingual (Spanish and English) telephone interviews with respondents from the pre-election American Values Survey. Results from the Ohio Values Survey were based on 1,203 bilingual (Spanish and English) telephone interviews of adults currently living in Ohio. Both surveys were conducted between November 7, 2012 and November 11, 2012. The margin of error for the Post-election American Values Survey is +/- 3.3 percentage points, and the margin of error for the Ohio Values Survey is +/- 3.5 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence interval.


Shannon Craig Straw

Adam Muhlendorf


The organizations and/or individuals who submit materials for distribution by Religion News Service are solely responsible for the facts in and accuracy of their materials. Religion News Service will correct any errors brought to its attention.

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