Hill Poll: Voters prefer Republican budget ideas, but dislike GOP

More voters trust the Democratic Party than the Republican Party on budgetary issues, according to the results of a new poll for The Hill — even though a strong majority actually prefer Republican fiscal policies.

The discrepancy would appear to be rooted in the GOP’s image problem, as the party attempts to recover from a bruising general election and recalibrate for a new generation of voters.

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Respondents in The Hill Poll were asked to choose which of two approaches they would prefer on the budget, but the question’s phrasing included no cues as to which party advocated for which option.

Presented in that way, 55 percent of likely voters opted for a plan that would slash $5 trillion in government spending, provide for no additional tax revenue and balance the budget within 10 years — in essence, the path recommended by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) last week.

This was almost twice as many voters as opted for a proposal that would include $1 trillion in added tax revenue as well as $100 billion in infrastructure spending, and which would reduce the deficit without eradicating it. 

Only 28 percent of voters preferred this option, which reflects the proposal put forth by Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-Wash.) last week. 

An even stronger majority of respondents, 65 percent, said U.S. budget deficits should be reduced mostly by cutting spending rather than by raising taxes. Just 24 percent said the budget should be balanced mostly by increasing revenue. 

In general, Democrats favor a much greater emphasis on tax revenue than do Republicans, most of whom are adamantly opposed to any increased taxes at all.

Notably, many respondents who identified themselves as Democrats actually supported key Republican proposals, according to The Hill poll. Just 44 percent of Democrats said budget deficits should be reduced mostly by raising taxes, while slightly fewer, 40 percent, said balance should be achieved mostly by reining in spending. 

By contrast, a strong majority of Republicans toed the party line. Eighty-eight percent, said deficits should be reduced by cutting spending, while just 7 percent said the budget should be balanced by increasing revenue.

However, as soon as respondents heard the words “Republican” and “Democrat,” the picture changed drastically. A plurality of voters, 35 percent, said they trust the Democrats more on budgetary issues, while 30 percent said they trust the Republicans more. A full 34 percent said they trust neither party. 

These findings buttress the impression that the Republican label itself incites mistrust among many voters.  

Since the 2012 election, which saw GOP losses in Congress as well as President Obama’s reelection, the party has become increasingly divided over how to restore its tarnished reputation. 

Speeches by two rising stars to activists at the Conservative Political Action Conference last week reflected the party’s identity crisis. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio declared that the GOP does not “need a new idea,” while Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul called for a new Republican Party based on libertarian ideals to supplant a GOP that he charged had “grown stale.”

One issue around which most of the party’s constituency can coalesce is the objection to President Obama’s healthcare overhaul. The GOP budget put forth by Ryan assumes that most of the healthcare reform law should be repealed. 

Notably, a plurality of respondents in The Hill poll agreed with Ryan’s assumption: Forty-five percent of voters said ObamaCare should be fully repealed, while just 37 percent said the law should be fully implemented. 

The findings came from a nationwide survey of 1,000 likely voters conducted on March 14 by Pulse Opinion Research.

Click here to view data from The Hill Poll.