As Republicans and Democrats in Congress haggle over the budget, most voters would rather have a partial shutdown of the federal government than keep its spending at current levels.
A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that just 33% of Likely U.S. Voters would rather have Congress avoid a government shutdown by authorizing spending at the same levels as last year. Fifty-eight percent (58%) says it's better to have a partial shutdown until Democrats and Republicans can agree on what spending to cut. (To see survey question wording, click here.)
The partisan differences are striking. Fifty-eight percent (58%) of Democrats prefer avoiding a shutdown by going with current spending levels. But 80% of Republicans -- and 59% of voters not affiliated with either major party -- think a shutdown is a better option until the two sides can agree on spending cuts.
Congress never passed a budget for 2011 but authorized spending for a few months. That authorization will expire soon, and Congress must act quickly or some federal government services could be shut down. Payments for things like Social Security, Medicare and unemployment benefits would continue, however.
A plurality (48%) of all voters believe that a partial government shutdown would be bad for the economy. Twenty-five percent (25%) say a shutdown would be good for the country economically, while 15% say it would have no impact.
Democrats are worried about the economic impact of a partial government shutdown. Sixty-nine percent (69%) of those in the president's party say a shutdown would be bad for the economy. However, Republicans and unaffiliated voters are evenly divided on the topic with nearly as many saying a shutdown would be good for the economy as bad.
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The survey of 1,000 Likely Voters was conducted on February 24-25, 2011 by Rasmussen Reports. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence. Field work for all Rasmussen Reports surveys is conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, LLC. See methodology.
In general, just 27% of all voters think Congress should now authorize spending for 2011 at the same levels as last year. Six percent (6%) want more government spending, but 61% say Congress should authorize less spending that there was the year before.
The majority of voters for years have said that cutting taxes and reducing government spending are best for the economy.
The federal government was last partially shutdown for five days in 1995 and 21 days in 1996. In both cases, CNN reports, the stock market moved higher on the news.
Republicans want to cut $57 billion more out of the federal budget for the current year than Democrats do. As negotiations continue on a long-term agreement, the two sides on Friday agreed to a two-week budget extension that includes $4 billion in cuts.
Eighty-four percent (84%) of voters say they are following news reports about the federal budget debate at least somewhat closely, with 49% who are following Very Closely.
Forty-five percent (45%) of Democrats think Congress should authorize spending at the same levels as last year, while another 14% think there should be more spending. Eighty-one percent (81%) of Republicans and 67% of unaffiliated voters believe Congress should approve less spending than there was the year before.
This is another issue that the Political Class and Mainstream voters don't see eye-to-eye on. Seventy-six percent (76%) of those in the Political Class would rather see spending continue at current levels to avoid a shutdown; 70% of Mainstream voters prefer a shutdown until Democrats and Republicans can agree on spending cuts.
Voters have consistently rated cutting the federal deficit in half by the end of his first term as the more important of several budget priorities the president listed early in 2009, but few voters expect him to hit his goal.
The documents the White House includes with the president's $3.7 trillion proposed budget for 2012 project that government spending will top $4 trillion in the next two to three years, but most voters aren't aware of that increase amidst all the talk of spending cuts.
Fifty-five percent (55%) of voters say, generally speaking, that the president's new budget proposal cuts government spending too little, but despite House Republican plans to cut substantially more, a plurality of voters don't think the GOP goes far enough either.
Then again, 70% of voters think voters are more willing to make the hard choices needed to reduce federal spending than politicians are.
Though a plurality still gives Congress a poor grade, voters are showing slightly less negativity towards the legislators than they have in several years. Now that the new Congress is fully settled in, favorability ratings have dropped for all of the top leaders except House Speaker John Boehner.
Voters now trust the GOP more than Democrats on all 10 of the most important issues regularly surveyed by Rasmussen Reports including the economy and taxes.
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Scott Rasmussen, president of Rasmussen Reports, has been an independent pollster for more than a decade. To learn more about our methodology, click here.