Democratic pollster: Voters OK with tax increases

Voters want to see Washington to take a deeper look at revenue increases and a broader view in general on the current budget debate, according to new data from a Democratic pollster.

Geoff Garin of Hart Research said newly released data suggests that Democrats have the higher ground politically on the new budget conference, because voters want to see a mix of tax increases and spending cuts replace the sequester.

And after the deficit declined steeply in 2013, people in the U.S. also want budget negotiators to discuss policies that would help spark the economy, as well as get the nation’s books in order.

“Americans do not want to have a debate about the budget that is divorced from the important issue of job creation and continuing the process of putting Americans back to work,” Garin said on a conference call Tuesday.

The new poll from Hart Research found that, by a 56 percent to 39 percent margin, voters want the next budget agreement to include both revenues and cuts.

Independents and swing voters strongly backed that idea, according to the poll conducted for Americans for Tax Fairness, a liberal group. The poll surveyed 1,009 voters in late October, for a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

Additionally,  a strong majority – 68 percent – wants negotiators to examine both job creation and deficit reduction, and the poll found little appetite for cutting popular entitlements like Medicare and Social Security.

Republicans like House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) have insisted that they won’t agree to any budget plan that raises taxes, while Senate Budget Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and other Democrats have stressed that tax breaks used by the wealthy and corporations should be on the table. Budget conferees have until Dec. 13 to reach a deal.

Garin, Hart Research’s Guy Molyneux and union and think tank officials also said on Tuesday that the findings dovetailed with polling done over the last several years.

Even with that polling, Republicans have fought to keep tax increases out of the mix on budget deals, including this year over sequestration and in last year’s fiscal cliff debate. Republicans say that the roughly $600 billion in revenues that Democrats got from the fiscal cliff deal should be sufficient, and that Congress should instead concentrate on keeping spending under control.

Top GOP officials have added that they also want to get rid of many tax breaks, but would prefer to pour the savings into lowering tax rates. Democrats have also expressed an interest in that sort of tax overhaul, but also want some of the revenue to go toward deficit reduction or for other priorities.

Still, liberals also feel emboldened after President Obama won re-election in 2012 while explicitly calling for tax increases on the highest earners, and say that the issue isn’t the drag it once was on Democrats.

“Democrats don’t have to be afraid for standing up for fair taxes,” Chuck Loveless of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees said Tuesday.