More Americans prefer congressional Republicans than Democrats to handle the federal budget, but adults split evenly between the widely different plans offered by President Obama and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), according to the USA Today/Gallup poll.
Dealing with financial issues will be at the top of the congressional agenda for the next months as Republicans and Democrats wrestle with budget deficits, the debt ceiling and related issues including tax reform. Those issues are expected to also form the framework for the 2012 presidential and congressional elections.
Yet the latest poll shows that the general public appears about evenly divided over how to handle the issue of deficits and budgets though the political parties' approaches are sharply at odds.
President Obama has called for a combination of cuts and tax increases on the rich to bring down deficits over the long-term while keeping intact key entitlement programs such as Medicare and Medicaid. Ryan, the House Budget Committee chairman, has proposed reshaping Medicare as a voucher-like program and Medicaid as a block grant program. He has also called for deeper budget cuts and tax reform that ends some breaks but lowers the overall tax rate, which helps the rich. The Ryan plan passed the GOP-controlled House without any Democratic support.
According to the poll, 44% said they prefer the Obama plan while 43% said they backed Ryan's, a statistical dead heat in a poll where the margin of error is plus or minus 4 percentage points. The poll was conducted by telephone between April 20-23, with a random sample of 1,013 adults.
The even split crosses party lines as well. More than 80% of those who identified themselves as Republicans and Democrats favored their own party's plan. Independents were also evenly split with 41% backing Ryan and 42% backing Obama.
The young tended to support Obama while the middle-aged and elderly tended to go the other way. Ryan's plan protects the existing benefits for Medicare and those older than 55 but would affect the young when they get older and become eligible.
The poll found that Republicans hold an edge over Democrats on the question of who would do the better job of dealing with the federal budget. Almost half, 48%, said they prefer Republicans in Congress while 36% favor Democrats.
Independents helped sway the result, saying they favored the GOP by 47% to 30%.