Two national polls released Tuesday revealed that registered voters think it's more important to help the unemployed than to reduce the deficit.
Fifty-two percent of voters told CBS that Congress should extend unemployment benefits "even if it means increasing the budget deficit," including 35 percent of Republicans. Sixty-two percent of registered voters told ABC Congress should extend benefits despite concerns that doing so "adds too much to the federal budget deficit."
In a Bloomberg survey, 70 percent of voters said reducing unemployment is more important than reducing the deficit. But only 47 percent said Congress should reauthorize extended benefits, which in some states provided the unemployed with up to 99 weeks of checks.
A poll commissioned by the National Employment Law Project in June found that 74 percent of voters think helping the unemployed is more important than reducing the deficit.
Extended benefits for the long-term unemployed lapsed at the end of May because Republicans and some Democrats in Congress insisted that the cost of the jobless aid not be added to the deficit.
Though ABC notes that this issue "may be one place for Obama and the Democrats to try for traction," they haven't found it. During the past several weeks, Democrats in the Senate have been unable to muster the 60 votes they need to break a Republican filibuster, failing by just one vote in the most recent attempt. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Wednesday that Democrats will try again on Tuesday, after the swearing-in of a replacement for the late Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.).
The poll results suggest that most voters agree with economist Mark Zandi, a former adviser to Sen. John McCain, who has argued that helping the unemployed is more important than deficit reduction in the short-term, and that nickel-and-diming the unemployed now could jeopardize the economic recovery.
Democrats, including Reid, have said several times in recent weeks that jeopardizing the recovery seems to be exactly what the GOP is trying to do. "It wouldn't do their electoral prospects any harm for there to be more economic misery in America before the election, let's put it that way," said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.).