Politics and Public Opinion

Public: Political Leaders Will Posture, Compromise, Repeat

In the new Washington Post/ABC poll, a majority of Americans say both President Obama and the Republicans in Congress are not willing enough to compromise on the debt ceiling. However, people seem confident that a compromise will be reached one way or the other. Sixty-six percent told CBS pollsters that President Obama and the Republicans will probably reach an agreement before the August 2 deadline. Most see the debate in Washington revolving more around political posturing than actual policy differences. In a June CBS poll, 85 percent said the debate in Washington is mostly about political gain. Only 8 percent said it was about honest disagreements over economic policy.

It’s comforting to see two-thirds of Americans expressing some level of confidence in the political system to resolve this dispute, despite how confidence in our political institutions is appallingly low. In a March 2011 Pew poll, only 29 percent of respondents said they trust the government in Washington to do what is right all the time or most of the time. In Gallup’s 2011 poll on confidence in institutions,  a dismal 7 percent of the public have a great deal of trust in Congress; it ranked last out of 16 institutions.

Low levels of institutional trust, combined with the expectation of a compromise on the debt ceiling, could mean Capitol Hill might have even further to fall in popularity.

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