Public backs GOP on taxes, not health, poll says
Data suggest election was not mandate
WASHINGTON — People back Republican tax cut plans but not the GOP campaign to repeal President Obama’s health care overhaul, according to a poll suggesting that the Republicans’ big Election Day win was not a mandate for the party’s legislative wish list.
Fifty-three percent say income tax cuts that soon will expire should be renewed for all — including the highest earners, as 73publicans want — according to an Associated Press-GfK Poll conducted just after last week’s elections. But 44 percent would continue the cuts only for those earning under $250,000 a year — which Obama favors — or let them lapse for everyone.
When it comes to the health care law Obama signed in March, 39 percent back the GOP effort to repeal it or scale it back. Fifty-eight percent would rather make more changes to the health care system or leave the law alone.
Two-thirds want the Senate to ratify Obama’s nuclear arms-reduction treaty with Russia, including most Democrats, about 6 in 10 Republicans, and independents — and even about half of conservative Tea Party movement supporters. Some Republican senators oppose the treaty. The Obama administration hopes to win Senate approval in the upcoming lame-duck session of Congress and will need GOP support to garner the 67 votes required.
During this fall’s campaign, a leading Republican theme was a promise to curb a government they said had become too big and intrusive under Obama. This included proposals to extend tax cuts for even the wealthiest Americans and to pull back Obama’s health care law.
Further fueling support for their agenda were unyieldingly bad job and housing markets that polls suggest left many voters disenchanted with Democrats. The election ended with the GOP gaining a majority of seats in the House and adding to its Senate minority.
“I think everybody wants change,’’ said Steven Lamb, 60, a Tennessee state government worker in Nashville who voted Republican last week despite opposing the party’s stance on tax cuts and health care. “I’m tired of what’s going on, and the only way to do it is to make a change.’’
The preference for cutting everyone’s taxes was a turnabout from September, when most of those surveyed in an AP-GfK poll favored omitting the wealthy from the reductions, 54 percent to 44 percent.
In further evidence that last week’s decisive GOP win was not an embrace of Republicans, the poll indicated that the GOP is no better liked than the Democratic Party. Both got favorable ratings from about half in the survey.
The poll also indicated support, though modest, for a divided government. More than 4 in 10 said the country will benefit from a GOP-controlled House while Democrats run the Senate and White House, almost twice the number who say that will be bad. A third said it doesn’t matter.
“Lately, we’re not prospering and one party has been in control,’’ said Suzanne Fairchild, 33, of Pahrump, Nev., who recently lost her job and likes a divided government in Washington. “When they’re busy bickering with themselves, the rest of us can get along with our lives.’’
The poll underscored deep partisan divides on taxes and health care. About three-quarters of Republicans want extended tax cuts to include the wealthiest, while nearly two-thirds of Democrats want to exclude the wealthy. While 61 percent of Republicans want to repeal Obama’s health overhaul, 85 percent of Democrats want to expand it or leave it in place.
Among independents, about half want the tax cuts to include those with the highest incomes. About two-thirds want to preserve Obama’s health package or strengthen it.
Christine Matthews, a Republican pollster, said GOP leaders have to avoid reading too much into the election results.
“They don’t want to get into Obama’s shoes and overinterpret their election as a strong mandate,’’ she said. “I think they’re taking it, and I think wisely, as a rejection of the general principles, of overreach, too much government.’’