Monday, January 17, 2011

Poll: Most want Obama, GOP to work together

Americans overwhelmingly want to see cooperation, not confrontation, between President Obama and congressional Republicans as a new legislative year begins, a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll finds — but they're not particularly optimistic about what they'll get.

One week before the president delivers his State of the Union Address, most of those surveyed don't expect the government to work better now that Republicans have won control of the U.S. House or Obama to do a better job now that he has had two years of experience in the White House under his belt.
Those expectations pose risks for the president and the GOP.

"They've got to find a way to thread the needle and agree on some major issues," says Steven Schier, a political scientist at Carleton College in Northfield, Minn. Reducing the federal budget deficit, raising the nation's debt ceiling and repealing or revising the health care law loom as divisive debates ahead.
"The issues are big, the differences are large, and the way forward is unclear," Schier says.
Americans are looking for things to get done:

•Eighty percent say the president should work to pass legislation Democrats and Republicans can agree on, even if it's not what most Democrats want. Even 70% of Democrats polled feel that way.
•Eighty-three percent say it's extremely or very important for House Republicans to pass legislation that both parties can agree on. Even 77% of Republicans polled feel that way.

Still, 39% also say it is important for House Republicans to block legislation the GOP disagrees with, including 55% of Republicans. And 53% of Republicans say it's very important for GOP leaders to consider the goals of the Tea Party movement.

The poll of 1,032 adults taken Friday through Sunday has an error margin of 4 percentage points.

No one starts the year with glowing ratings.

Obama's job-approval rating is 47% — precisely where it was in early January — and his favorable rating is 53%, up a bit from recent months. House Speaker John Boehner's favorable rating is 42%, almost exactly where Democrat Nancy Pelosi stood when she became speaker four years ago. Sarah Palin's favorable rating dropped to 38%, the lowest since just after bursting onto the national scene as John McCain's running mate in 2008. In the wake of controversy over her response to the Tucson shooting, her unfavorable rating hit a new high, 53%.

While Americans say they want conciliation, deep divisions remain over how to proceed on the health care law passed last year. House leaders have scheduled a vote for Wednesday on repealing it.

One-third of those polled, 32%, want the law repealed entirely, and 25% say it should be scaled back. On the other side, 24% say the law should be expanded, and 13% say it should be kept as it is.

There is also significant support for a showdown over raising the debt limit, a step that may have to be taken by late March to keep the government out of default. Half say Congress should agree to raise it only if there is an agreement in place on reducing the deficit in the future. Just 16% say it should be raised in any case.


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