With six weeks left for politicians in Washington to steer the nation from the fiscal cliff — drastic tax increases and spending cuts that would take effect in January — a new USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences Poll reflects some of the difficulties they might face during negotiations.
The poll shows about 60 percent of Californians support compromise as a means for avoiding the fiscal cliff, but continue to support partisan approaches.
According to the poll, only 32 percent of Californians support their elected representative pushing solutions based on party principles, regardless of whether it holds up other legislation.
Yet, when Democrats and decline-to-state voters were polled about compromising to reduce Medicare and Social Security benefits, 61 percent of those polled said they did not want to cut these benefits as a means of deficit reduction. Thirty-five percent supported cutting some of these benefits if it leads to a compromise on revenue increases.
Similarly, 55 percent of registered Republicans and decline-to-state voters opposed raising taxes to reduce the deficit.
“Almost everybody, both in Washington and in California, wants compromise,” said Dan Schnur, director of the USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll and director of the Unruh Institute of Politics. “The trick is they want the other side to do all the compromising.”
Schnur added that the poll results reflect a dichotomy between the idea of compromise and the reality of compromise.
“In the abstract, everyone likes the idea of compromise,” Schnur said. “But when it comes to giving up something that is important to them, they tend to dig in.”
Those polled opposed raising taxes by 11 percentage points, but supported increasing taxes on those earning more than $250,000 per year by 36 percentage points.
When asked specifically about former President George W. Bush’s tax cuts, 51 percent of Californians said they preferred extending the tax cuts for those making $250,000 or less, but not for those with higher incomes.
According to the poll, 82 percent of Californians are against reducing Medicare and Social Security benefits. Sherry Bebitch Jeffe, a senior fellow at the Sol Price School of Public Policy, said this reflects the political risk associated with attempting to restructure benefits as a way to reduce the budget.
“It’s not politically feasible,” Bebitch said. “Nobody wants to touch it. Nobody includes the people who vote in elections. It’s going to take a political will and political courage that I haven’t yet seen.”
The poll, which sampled 1,520 registered voters, had a 2.9 percent margin of error. It was conducted by Democratic polling firm Greenbay Quinlan Rosner and Republican polling firm American Viewpoint.