Who’s on Whose Side?

As the endgame emerges on raising the debt ceiling it’s fair to say that conservative intransigence is not endearing them to the public.

Here’s one of the reasons why: 53 percent of respondents in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll said that President Barack Obama cares more about the economic interests of the middle class, while just 35 percent thought that was true of the Republicans in Congress. In contrast, 67 percent thought Republicans in Congress cared more about the interests of large business corporations, compared to 24 percent who thought that of President Obama. So conservative intransigence is starting to seem less a matter of principle than an expression of whose side they’re on.

Reflecting these attitudes, the public believes Republicans should compromise on raising taxes in a debt ceiling deal. Sixty-two percent think they should give in and accept tax rises on the rich, while only 27 percent think they shouldn’t give in. But the public doesn’t believe Democrats should give in on cutting Social Security and Medicare, programs that are hugely important to middle-class economic security. By 52-38 the public believes Democrats should not agree to such cuts even if it’s the "only way" to get a debt ceiling deal.

Who’s on whose side—that’s an important element in understanding the conflicts in Congress today. And it’s certainly a good part of how the public will judge whatever deal Congress comes up with.

Ruy Teixeira is a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress. To learn more about his public opinion analysis go to the Media and Progressive Values page and the Progressive Studies program page of our website.