Sixty-four percent of Americans oppose a government shutdown of non-critical services should Obama and Congress fail to reach a budget agreement in the coming months. Twenty-eight percent say doing so would not be all that harmful.
Independents by 2 to 1 oppose shuttering the government in the absence of a spending compromise, yet they were more split about what to do about the automatic budget cuts. Forty-five percent support making cuts now to reduce the deficit before it gets out of control, while 49 percent say the reductions should be delayed in the interest of allowing the economy to rebound.
Russell Richter, a 52-year-old independent living in Jefferson City, Mo., says he’s so frustrated with Obama and congressional Republicans that the only way to force deficit reduction is to shake up the system.
“Like with human nature, whether it be an alcoholic or a spendaholic like we have up there in Washington, I think that they’re going to have to hit rock-bottom before they really realize what’s going on and what needs to be done,” Richter, an operations director at a car dealership, said in a follow-up interview. Of a potential government shutdown, he adds: “Not only do I not think it would be that harmful, I think it’s almost necessary to wake people up in Washington and make some hard choices.”
Fifty-one percent of respondents say overhauling Social Security is necessary to substantially reduce the deficit, and 58 percent say so of Medicare. Large majorities say they favor changes to curtail those programs, including 59 percent who back creating a sliding income scale for Social Security in which poorer people get more benefits and wealthy people fewer; 63 percent support such a system for Medicare; and 64 percent back curbing the cost-of-living increase for Social Security benefits.