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Obama's Deal with GOP May Help Him Win Back Independents, Poll Suggests

3 years ago
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Some political analysts are viewing President Obama's willingness to rankle Democratic leaders and anger liberals by striking a deal with Republicans on extending the Bush-era tax cuts as a bid to win back independents in advance of the 2012 elections. A new Gallup poll suggests that, politically, it may indeed have been a good way of moving towards that goal.

Liz Sidoti, who covers national politics for the Associated Press, saw Obama's strategy this way: "The compromise portended more likely to come as Obama courts the fickle center of the electorate and positions himself as the pragmatic president many independents want. . . . Enter Obama's dealmaking with Republicans and criticism of Democrats, moves intended to try to reclaim that swing-voting territory as he casts himself as a president who puts people above politics."
Tax cuts and unemployment benefitsIndependents were a major force behind Obama's 2008 victory, but poll after poll this year showed that they had increasingly soured on him and, in this year's election, they did a dramatic about-face in favor of the Republicans.

The Gallup poll, conducted Dec. 3-6, said two-thirds of all Americans backed the two key elements in the compromise deal -- extending the tax cuts for all and extending unemployment benefits.

Republicans and Democrats had differing levels of enthusiasm for each part of the deal. Eighty-five percent of Republicans favored extending the tax cuts but only 43 percent supported extension of unemployment benefits. Eighty-four percent of Democrats backed extension of unemployment benefits, while only 52 percent backed extending the tax cuts.

By contrast, independents were strongly in favor of both elements. Sixty-seven percent backed extension of the tax cuts and 71 percent supported extending unemployment benefits.
"The White House reportedly agreed to extend the Bush tax cuts for all Americans partly to help lure independents back to the Democrats' fold by 2012," Gallup said. "That reasoning seems sound. By yielding on the tax cuts, Obama extracted Republican leaders' support for extending unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed -- and large majorities of independents support both measures."

Liberal Democrats have been vocal in their criticism of the deal Obama made, and the Gallup poll showed that only 39 percent of them favored extending the tax cuts, according to the Gallup poll. Sixty-four percent of Democrats who described themselves as conservative or moderate supported extension. A big majority of moderate and liberal Republicans backed both the tax cut and unemployment benefit extensions, but only 38 percent of conservative supported the extension of unemployment benefits.

The deal was announced on Dec. 6, so Gallup was in the field with this poll mostly before the announcement. It framed its question, along with questions on a range of other issues, as part of what it called a "referendum-style" survey, asking Americans how they would vote if they could go to the polls and vote on each issue like they do for a candidate.

The AP's Sidoti says that in bidding for independents, Obama is "essentially betting that Democrats ultimately will fall in line behind him -- and hoping that no serious Democratic challenger emerges, much less a serious third-party candidate." (In Wednesday's New York Times, Matt Bai explored some of the talk on the left about whether someone should challenge Obama for the nomination.)

A Pew Research Center poll, also conducted just before announcement of the deal with the Republicans, tested sentiment among Democrats and found that while Obama got lukewarm marks on the question of standing up for the party's positions, most Democrats did not believe he was giving in too much to the Republicans.

Fifty-four percent of Democrats and Democratic leaners surveyed Dec. 1-5 said Obama was doing a good or excellent job in standing up for traditional party positions while 43 percent rated him only fair or poor, with 2 percent undecided.
Forty-eight percent graded as "about right" the extent to which Obama has gone along with GOP leaders, while 23 percent said he has done it too much and 13 percent said too little, with 16 percent undecided.

The new Gallup poll did not break down support for the tax cut extension by those who favored it for all and those who wanted to extend the cuts but exclude high-income earners. A USA/Today Gallup poll conducted in mid-November said 44 percent favored extending the tax cuts but setting limits on high-income earner, while 40 percent backed extending them for everyone, with 13 percent wanting to let the cuts expire and 3 percent undecided.

In the Pew poll, 47 percent said the tax cuts should be extended only for households with incomes of less than $250,000, 33 percent favored keeping all the cuts in place and 14 percent would have let the tax cuts expire, with 15 percent undecided. An alternate proposal to set the income cutoff at $1 million got less support.

A Bloomberg poll, conducted Dec. 4-7, said 34 percent of those surveyed wanted the tax cuts extended for the middle-class but not those earning $250,000 or more, 19 percent favored extending the cuts for everyone, and 16 percent backed the idea of permanent extension for the middle class but only a two year continuation for high-income earners. Four percent were undecided.

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254 Comments

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Maggie

Sorry, but when something is REALLY done by this administration, that has been promised for sooooo long, Maybe we might believe something he has said.

January 28 2011 at 10:03 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
rigocolon

I think President Obama has made a clever political decision on extending the tax cut for a period of time and the unemployent benefit for long term unemployed. Now, the republicans must show they were right in fighting for the tax cut for the 2% rich because of their argument is to create job and help the the economy. Let's see if that will happen if the bill pass. Mr. Obama put the republicans on a hot seat.

December 10 2010 at 9:41 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
gaspartx

Why in the hell are we talking about tax cuts when we have a deficit of $12 trillion dollars and owe our butts to China? With these tax cuts, we better get the hell out Irag, Afghanistan, and South Korea and stop foreign aid.

December 09 2010 at 5:50 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
winwin4u2

I will never vote again Thank You

December 09 2010 at 1:52 PM Report abuse -6 rate up rate down Reply
jkaley

So one interpretation of this situation, is that our President looked at the policitcal tea leaves and realized that hanging his political hat on Ms. Pelozi's and Mr. Reid's coat rack puts him at a serious disadvantage for 2012. The voter's were trying to transmit a message in November. It appears the president may have heard a portion of it. Pelozi/Reid not so much. The voters see them pushing the Dream Act and get the horrific cynicism in it; those same voters see a President not willing to add to the economic chaos by leaving tax chaos for January and having to take the blame for it. Eventually these polls will demonstrate that he might be able to hold on to the Whitehouse and stop the talk of making him fight for the nomination. Meantime he accuses the Republicans of holding the country hostage, so the rank and file Dems keep thinking he is one of them. It is all calculation and triangulation. No one plays the cards off the top of the deck.

December 09 2010 at 1:51 PM Report abuse +8 rate up rate down Reply
John Sapp

Income taxes should be paid by those making less that $250,000 per year. This would apply to 90% of the people who do not have the necessary responsibility of providing jobs or paying salaries to create revenues for our government. Once a person moves into a position where he is able to provide jobs or pay salaries, he shall be exempt from filling taxes. This would create a tremendous incentive for the work place, and for our economy as a hold. ALTHOUGHT THIS IS FANTASY, BUT WOULDN'T IT BE SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT.

December 09 2010 at 1:25 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
FICHTNER02

I agree, Obama should work with the Republicans since they were voted in. It should and does tell him that Americans want him to listen to their side. I am a Democrat but, he should listen to his country when they vote and he is doing just that. Good move Obama. You did something right.

December 09 2010 at 1:07 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
ratboy4444079930

The GOP would have done anything to get that tax break for millionaires, anything. But there will be no extention for the 99ers. Obama didn't even ask for it. It's like the government wants to pretend they don't even exist. I'm not worried about myself. I am single with no kids. I'll get by. But millions of 99ers won't. And that number is only going to grow and grow for the foreseeable future.

December 09 2010 at 12:31 PM Report abuse -5 rate up rate down Reply
ktonyjames

Does anyone remember when the tax rate for the wealthy was near 49%? Now we have all the millionaires in Congress ranting about paying 35% and at the same time asking each year for a raise in their salary. What? Everyone is paying for the loss of tax revenue. Think! Doesn't everything cost more at the grocery store, gas pump, restaurants,etc. Those are the effects of a shrinking value of our dollar since interest rates were dropped at record lows. They haven't changed the tax rates and speak of low or no inflation. Eventually we will all carry sacks for our money, wallets won't be big enough. Who really cares about our national debt; apparently not our elected officials.

December 09 2010 at 12:25 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
ettu

This is the first time since taking over the Oval Office that the President has included anyone outside the Lib/Prog/Dem crowd when developing a bill to be presented for a vote. While the rest of us are now ecstatic that those with less radical agendas will now wield some power in answering the calls from the majority of Americans, we will not forget what has been done to our country, and the citizens, by the Libs/Progs in Congress who have held power for 4 years, and the President and his "staff" who have had power for 2 years. Keep the brooms handy for 2012........we cannot allow the destructive programs passed thus far, to remain intact.

December 09 2010 at 11:52 AM Report abuse +8 rate up rate down Reply

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