As the U.S. draws closer to hitting its borrowing limit, polls released this week show that many Americans oppose raising the debt ceiling, despite worries about the consequences of failing to do so.
In an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll released Friday, 44 percent of respondents said they are against raising the debt ceiling, while 22 percent said it should be raised so the U.S. avoids "going into bankruptcy and defaulting on its obligations." The remaining third said they are unsure.
“People’s first instinct is how fed up they are with Washington and spending,” Republican pollster Bill McInturff told NBC. “This is a very difficult issue in terms of public opinion.”
A Reason-Rupe poll released Thursday by the libertarian Reason Foundation and Arthur N. Rupe Foundation found even wider opposition, with 70 percent against raising the debt ceiling and 24 percent in favor of it. The poll, unlike the one from NBC/WSJ, didn't explicitly give respondents the option to say they didn't know enough to form an opinion.
While Americans are eager to tell pollsters they support cuts, however, they often hold conflicting opinions on budget issues, and public opinion is far from set. In the summer of 2011, NBC/WSJ polling showed that support for raising the debt ceiling rose by 10 points between June and July as the issue received more attention.
Despite the lack of support for increasing the debt limit, a CNN/ORC poll released earlier this week found that 62 percent of Americans said failing to do so would cause a "crisis" or "major problems." A 54 percent majority said they would blame Republicans in Congress for such a failure, while 25 percent said they'd blame President Barack Obama. Both figures are roughly the same as they were in CNN/ORC's 2011 polling.
Only 36 percent of Americans said in this week's CNN/ORC poll that they approve of the way Obama is handling the budget deficit. But when asked to name the country's most important issue, just 13 percent chose the federal budget deficit, ranking it behind the economy, health care and the situation in Syria.
The NBC/WSJ poll surveyed 1,000 adults between Sept. 5 and 8, while the Reason-Rupe poll surveyed 1,012 adults between Sept. 4 and 8. The CNN/ORC poll surveyed 1,022 adults between Sept 6 and 8. All used live phone interviews.