The Hill Poll: Voters following the debt debate but remain wary

Almost four out of five voters believe the ongoing debate about the nation’s debt is very important to their everyday life, according to a poll conducted for The Hill.

The finding is a powerful rebuttal to the argument that the arcane nature of the debt-ceiling debate minimizes public engagement with the issue.

But while voters may be interested, they also appear unimpressed by the performance of both major parties. The Hill poll found that 36 percent of voters said neither party was winning the debate over reining in the nation’s debt.

An especially high share of self-identified centrists — 43 percent — took a dim view of both parties’ efforts, saying that neither was winning the argument.

Among the centrists who did express a preference, Democrats had the edge: 31 percent believed the president’s party was winning the debate while 24 percent opted for the GOP.

The bleak view of both parties’ efforts cut across several political lines. For instance, the proportion of voters saying that neither party was winning the debate was almost identical among voters who somewhat approved and disapproved of President Obama’s job performance. Fifty-one percent of the former and 50 percent of the latter said neither party was winning.

Voters also expressed tepid confidence at best that Democrats and Republicans would reach an agreement to prevent the United States from defaulting on its debt.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said last week: “We have no way to give Congress more time to solve this problem. We are running out of time.” Geithner has repeatedly stated that Treasury will run out of money on Aug. 2 unless the debt ceiling is raised.

Despite this urgency, The Hill poll found that more than half of American voters — 52 percent — said they were either “not very confident” or “not at all confident” that a deal would be done. By contrast, a total of 44 percent expressed confidence that a deal would be struck by the parties before the deadline.

The level of voter confidence in a deal remained relatively consistent across gender and age groups but differed along racial lines. More black voters — 61 percent — said they were somewhat or very confident that a deal would be struck. The comparable figure among white voters was 43 percent.

Pulse Opinion Research conducted The Hill poll of 1,000 likely voters on July 14. It has a margin of error of 3 percentage points.