By Erik Wasson - 02/07/11 05:29 AM EST
Only 27 percent of likely voters favor raising the nation’s $14.3 trillion debt ceiling, while 62 percent oppose it, according to an exclusive poll for The Hill.
The poll found solid opposition from Republicans and also from independent voters, who are critical to President Obama’s re-election in 2012.
Winning the congressional vote to raise the debt ceiling is a crucial test for the president. House and Senate Republicans are using the vote, which must take place soon, in an effort to secure deep spending cuts from the White House.
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and White House officials warn of dire consequences if the debt ceiling is not raised.
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke also warned lawmakers last week not to use the vote as a bargaining chip, saying it would be “catastrophic” if the nation defaulted. But the poll, conducted by Pulse Opinion Research among 1,000 likely voters, suggests the administration’s message is not resonating beyond the Beltway.
The poll also finds the public continues to believe President Obama’s 2009 economic stimulus package failed to help the economy.
Only 36 percent of voters surveyed said stimulus spending creates jobs, while 48 percent said flatly that it does not. Crucially, 61 percent of independent voters took that negative view.
Only 40 percent of likely voters say the $787 billion stimulus package helped. While 69 percent of Democrats say it boosted growth, 56 percent of independents think the stimulus hurt or had no impact on the economy.
The president’s budget, due Feb. 14, will call for more spending on infrastructure, research and development and education. The polls suggest the public is unreceptive to the idea, so Obama might find it tough to get these budget requests through a Republican House clamoring for deep cuts.
Voters split on Obama’s economic policies. Forty-four percent in the survey said the policies are hurting the economy, while 41 percent said they are helping. The poll’s margin of error is 3 percent.
By a 47-37 percent margin, independents said Obama has hindered the economic recovery.
Party affiliation made a big difference; 68 percent of self-identified Republicans said the president’s policies are hurting the economy, compared to 71 percent of Democrats who said they are helping.
The poll also asked likely voters if Republican control of the House of Representatives would help or hurt the economy, or have no impact. The survey found 44 percent of respondents said it will help, 30 percent said it will hurt and 20 percent said it will have no impact.
The nation’s jobless rate dipped to 9 percent on Friday, which the White House touted as evidence that its economic policies are having a positive effect. But the economy only added 36,000 jobs in January.
“The overall trend of economic data in recent months has been encouraging, as initiatives put in place by this administration are taking hold, but there is still considerable work to do,” White House economic adviser Austan Goolsbee said Friday.
House Republicans, however, make the case that their new majority is responsible for the encouraging news.
“Today’s [jobs] report … does reflect an economic climate that has a measure of greater certainty thanks to the work of Republicans at the end of the last Congress to stop a massive tax hike on families and small businesses,” said House Republican Policy Committee Chairman Tom Price (R-Ga.).
The Hill’s poll was conducted by telephone on Feb. 1.
Data can be seen here