We decided to look at public opinion on the debt deal in two swing states that could hold the key to Barack Obama's reelection, Colorado and North Carolina. Here's what we found:
-Voters across party lines in both states think the deal will be bad for the economy. In Colorado 55% think the deal will hurt the economy to only 25% who think it will be good and in North Carolina 46% think it will hurt the economy to an identical 25% who believe it will be a good thing. In both states Republicans and independents are strongly opposed to the deal with Democrats against it as well, although by a much more narrow margin. In Colorado the numbers are 14/65 with Republicans, 20/59 with independents, and 36/43 with Democrats. In North Carolina the numbers are 19/56 with Republicans, 24/50 with independents, and 31/37 with Democrats.
-With such an unpopular deal it's hard to really crown a political 'winner' but to the extent there is one it's Barack Obama. Here's why Obama's the nominal winner. Among voters who support the deal, they're more prone to give Obama the credit than Congressional Republicans. And among voters who oppose the deal, they're more inclined to blame the GOP than the President. In Colorado 51% of voters who support it say Obama was more responsible to only 18% who say Congressional Republicans. In North Carolina it's a closer spread but 33% of supporters credit Obama to 30% for the GOP.
When it comes to the blame game among voters displeased with the compromise 33% in Colorado fault Congressional Republicans more to 23% for Obama and in North Carolina 35% say the GOP is more at fault to 21% who lay it more on the President.
The biggest indication that Obama came out ahead on this one may be in polls we'll release later this week though- Obama is ahead of Mitt Romney in both of these states.
-Very few voters think the deal cut last week is really going to solve the deficit problem and they think additional taxes are necessary. Only 3% of Colorado voters think last week's deal will really fix the deficit to 85% who don't believe it will and in North Carolina only 4% think it will solve the problem to 80% who dissent. One reason for that lack of optimism is that few voters think a 'cuts only' approach is going to solve the problem. In Colorado just 31% think spending cuts alone will work while 59% think there needs to be a combination of spending cuts and additional taxes. And in North Carolina only 32% think spending cuts exclusively will get the job done while 53% think it needs to be a mixed approach.
Democrats in both states pretty universally think more taxes will be necessary to solve the deficit. What might be more notable are the numbers with independents and Republicans. In Colorado independents think there needs to be a mixed spending cuts/additional taxes approach by a 55/33 margin and in North Carolina it's 56/31. And even though a majority of GOP voters prefer a cuts only approach there is a sizable chunk of the party- 30% in North Carolina and 33% in Colorado- that believes more taxes are needed.
-Stimulus is a bad word. One thing voters in the two states don't want as a potential aid to the economy is another stimulus. Colorado voters would oppose one 56/32 and North Carolina voters would be against it 53/30. Republicans in both states are pretty universally opposed to another round of stimulus and so are strong majorities of independents (59/30 in Colorado and 56/28 in North Carolina.) Although Democratic voters say they would favor another stimulus it's not terribly strong support- 54/30 in Colorado and 46/31 in North Carolina.
-Voters are still pinning more of the blame for the economy on George W. Bush than Barack Obama. It's been a trying couple of months for the President and his reelection prospects look about as weak as they have since he took office. But it's still a good sign for him moving forward that voters don't necessarily think this is all his fault. In Colorado 54% blame Bush more to 39% for Obama. It's 54/34 with independents. And in North Carolina 50% blame Bush more to 42% for Obama. It's 52/38 with independents.
Blaming Bush is not a reelection strategy and Obama shouldn't be out pushing that message himself. But these numbers suggest that when some swing voters are making their final decisions 14 months from now they might come to the conclusion that even if things aren't going well the President was dealt such a bad hand coming into office that he deserves 4 more years to try to get it turned around. Whether enough voters will see things that way for Obama to win is an open question.
Full results here