Poll: Doubts On Bush Budget

President Bush holds a town hall meeting with about 4,000 displaced workers and business owners at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Fla., Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2001. Bush visited Orlando to encourage tourism in a state that has felt a significant decline in tourism dollars since the Sept. 11 attacks. AP

A CBS News poll has found that although President George W. Bush continues to receive high ratings on many aspects of his presidency, he does not have overwhelming support for many of his budget proposals, and the public is extremely wary of government spending if it would lead to a budget deficit. Furthermore, the public views the Social Security surplus as off-limits, untouchable even if used to fund increased military spending.

Vice President Dick Cheney’s refusal to hand over to Congress records from his energy task force meetings meets with skepticism from the public, as just over half think he is hiding something.

BUSH’S FEDERAL BUDGET

Despite his high approval ratings, Bush has so far been able to convince only a bare majority of the public to support his budget priorities. 50% say that his budget proposals – including increasing spending on the military and defense, expanding tax cuts, increasing spending on domestic programs such as education, and decreasing spending on other domestic programs -- are worth putting the budget into deficit, and 42% say those priorities are not worth a federal budget deficit.

ARE BUSH’S BUDGET PROPOSALS WORTH DEFICIT?
Yes 50%
No 42

The reason so few support his budget is that Americans continue to be averse to budget deficits, and nearly half think we are in one now. 76% think a budget deficit of nearly $80 billion – which would occur under Bush’s proposed budget – is something to worry about. Only 20% think such a shortfall would not matter much.

BUDGET DEFICIT…
  • Now
    Is something to worry about 76%
    Won’t matter much 20

  • 3/82
    Is something to worry about 79%
    Won’t matter much 14

    In 1982, during Ronald Reagan’s presidency, sentiment was similar. Then, 79% thought a budget deficit of nearly $100 billion was cause for concern.

    Even a majority of the president’s party -- 62% of Republicans -- think the possible deficit is something the country should worry about.

    And the public rejects deficits even when confronted with a trade-off between a deficit and military spending. Then, opinion is divided; 49% would balance the budget, and 46% would increase spending on the military.

    CBSNEWS - New York Times Polls
    Would you prefer...

     Now1/81
    Balanced budget

    49%

    52%


     Now1/81
    Spend on military

    46%

    41%

    CBSNEWS Polls


    In 1981, when the U.S. was embroiled in the Cold War but there was no direct combat, public priorities sided with balancing the budget, by 52% to 41%.

    A majority of Republicans support spending on the military at the cost of a balanced budget.

    Public priorities conflict sharply with Bush’s proposed budget when Americans are faced with a choice between further tax cuts – an integral part of Bush’s plan to stimulate the economy — and a balanced budget. Under those circumstances, 70% would choose a balanced budget, and 28% opt for more tax cuts.

    WOULD YOU PREFER…?
    Balanced budget 70%
    More tax cuts 28

    Republicans and Democrats alike share this view.

    Just over half would even take money out of their own pockets in order to keep the government from deficit spending. 53% say they would forfeit the tax cut they received last fall to balance the budget, while 39% would not.

    WOULD YOU GIVE UP YOUR TAX CUT TO BALANCE THE BUDGET?
    Yes 53%
    No 39

    There is doubt among the public as to whether additional tax cuts are wise just now. 50% think the country cannot afford tax cuts right now, while 42% think the country can. Even among Republicans, reaction to further tax cuts is mixed; 49% think the country can afford it, but almost as many, 43%, think the country cannot.

    CAN U.S. AFFORD MORE TAX CUTS?
    Yes 42%
    No 50

    Finally, when faced with a choice between keeping spending on domestic programs where it is now or balancing the budget, again the budget takes precedence. 54% would balance the budget, and 35% would keep spending on domestic programs as is.

    WOULD YOU PREFER…?
    Balanced budget 54%
    Keep spending on domestic programs as is 35

    DON’T TOUCH SOCIAL SECURITY!

    Americans are downright vehement about keeping the Social Security surplus in a lockbox, even though Bush has said that in times of war and recession, it may be necessary to tap into it. 79% say that even under the current circumstances – with the cost of fighting the war in Afghanistan and the condition of the economy — they find it unacceptable to use the Social Security surplus to help pay for increased military spending or to pay for current domestic programs.

    USE SOCIAL SECURITY SURPLUS TO PAY FOR…?
  • Yes
    Increased military spending 17%
    Current domestic programs 17%

  • No
    Increased military spending 79
    Current domestic programs 79


    THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION

    There may be some dark clouds on the horizon for the Bush Administration. Vice President Dick Cheney is currently facing a lawsuit by the General Accounting Office to make public records from meetings his energy task force held with executives from the energy industry, including some executives from the now-bankrupt Enron. 53% think Cheney is refusing to hand over records from those meetings because he has something to hide, and 37% think he is doing so on principle.

    WHY IS CHENEY REFUSING TO DIVULGE RECORDS ON TASK FORCE?
    Hiding something 53%
    Principle 37

    Opinions about this specific case are different from those about executive privilege in general. Most Americans believe it is the prerogative of the executive office to choose to withhold such information. 59% say it should be up to the Administration to decide what to make public. 31% feel that records from White House meetings should always be made public.



    THE PRESIDENT

    Bush’s overall job approval rating has dipped slightly, from 82% in January to 78% in this poll. While still high, this is the lowest job approval rating Bush has received since just after the terrorist attacks last September, suggesting that the rallying effect that occurred last fall, when support for the president skyrocketed, may be dissipating.

    BUSH’S APPROVAL RATINGS
  • Now
    Job approval 78%
    Campaign against terrorism 82%
    Foreign policy 65%
    Economy 54%

  • 1/02
    Job approval 82%
    Campaign against terrorism 87%
    Foreign policy 70%
    Economy 56%

  • 12/01
    Job approval 86%
    Campaign against terrorism 90%
    Foreign policy 75%
    Economy 61%


    82% approve of the way he is handling the campaign against terrorism, 65% approve of his handling of foreign policy, and 54% approve of the way he is handling the economy. As with his overall job approval, all of these measures have decreased slightly since last month.

    Bush’s ratings on his role as an international leader have made enormous gains from his trip last week to China, South Korea and Japan. 73% now say Bush has the skills needed to negotiate effectively with other world leaders, up from 45% last June. And 67% think the leaders of other countries around the world have respect for this president, up from 37% last June.

    BUSH AS INTERNATIONAL LEADER
  • Now
    Can negotiate with world leaders 73%
    World leaders respect him 67%

  • 6/01
    Can negotiate with world leaders 45%
    World leaders respect him 37%


    Americans say the news coverage of the war in Afghanistan has been fair to the Bush Administration. Three-fourths describe the media’s coverage as fair to the Administration, 11% say the press has been too easy on the Administration, and 8% say the media has been too hard.

    MEDIA COVERAGE OF THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION
    Too easy 11%
    Too hard 8
    Fair 75

    CONGRESS

    50% of Americans now approve of the job Congress is doing, and 34% disapprove. That has changed little since last month. Looking ahead to the fall, the election could go either way right now; 40% of registered voters say they will vote for the Republican candidate in their district, and 40% will vote for the Democrat.


    HOUSE VOTE IN NOVEMBER
    (registered voters)
    Republican candidate 40%
    Democratic candidate 40%


    This poll was conducted among a nationwide random sample of 861 adults, interviewed by telephone February 24-26, 2002. The error due to sampling for results based on the entire sample could be plus or minus three percentage points. Sampling error for subgroups may be higher.

    For detailed information on how CBS News conducts public opinion surveys, click here.

    • Bootie Cosgrove-Mather

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