In June I wrote about the need for the Republican Party to act on the public’s increasing dissatisfaction over the level of government spending and their concern about the ever-increasing federal deficit. Our latest NBC/WSJ poll* shows this a real and growing opportunity, with the public starting to thaw on the GOP – at least when it comes to issues relating to the fiscal health of our country.
We asked Americans to tell us which party they think does a better job handling a series of issues. Of the eleven we tested, the Republican Party had the edge on six, and the Democratic Party on five. This result alone is a vast improvement as the last time these issues were tested the GOP held the advantage on just two (promoting strong moral values and the war on terrorism).
The news gets better. On each of the five issues the Democrats are perceived as handling better their margin has slipped, and of the six issues where the public gives Republicans the edge, the GOP has taken back control from Democrats in three:
Controlling government spending: In July 2007 (the last time we tested this issue) Democrats held a 16-point advantage, today Americans give the Republican Part a nine-point edge.
Dealing with taxes: Although Democrats only had a mere one-point lead on this in July 2008, the last time Republicans had the advantage was in January 2004 (2 points). Today by a seven-point margin the public perceives the Republican Party as better able to deal with taxes.
Dealing with the federal deficit: The public has swung from giving Democrats a 22-point advantage in January 2008 to giving the Republican Party a six-point edge today. The last time the GOP took the lead on this was in September 1997!
And, while the public still gives the Democratic Party a six-point advantage on dealing with economy, this is down 10 points from a year ago, and there are other measures that point to Republican opportunities. A plurality (43%) now think the economic stimulus package is a bad idea (compared to 34% who say it is a good idea), and less than three-in-ten (28%) say it will help the American economy a “great deal” or “quite a bit” over the next year. Two-thirds (67%) say it will help “only a little” or “not at all.”
And, our key question that reveals how Americans feel about all of this is basically unchanged from last month. A solid 59% (including the majority of independents) still say the president and Congress should “worry more about keeping the budget deficit down, even though it may mean it will take longer for the economy to recover,” compared to just 36% who say they should “worry more about boosting the economy even if it may mean larger budget deficits now and in the future.”
These numbers couldn’t be clearer. The public is greatly concerned about government spending and the federal debt, and they are starting to look to the Republican Party for alternative solutions.