Abilene's NPR Station
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

Slim majority wants debt ceiling raised without spending cuts, poll finds

FILE - Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., criticizes President Joe Biden's policies and efforts on the debt limit negotiations as he holds a news conference at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, May 17, 2023.
J. Scott Applewhite
/
AP
FILE - Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., criticizes President Joe Biden's policies and efforts on the debt limit negotiations as he holds a news conference at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, May 17, 2023.

The country is careening close to defaulting on its debts if the debt limit is not increased, and a slim majority of Americans want the debt limit to be raised without making spending cuts, a new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll finds.

But there's a sharp partisan divide on the best approach.

By a 52%-to-42% margin, respondents said Congress should increase the debt ceiling first to avoid a default and discuss spending cuts separately rather than only increasing it if significant cuts are made at the same time, even if that means the U.S. defaults on its debt.

Respondents were split on whether they would blame congressional Republicans or President Biden if the country does default – 45% said Republicans and 43% said Biden. But independents said they would blame Biden, by a 47%-to-38% margin.

Loading...

Despite ongoing negotiations, the White House and congressional Republicans have not yet agreed on how to raise the limit. President Biden prefers a clean raise of the debt limit, one without cuts. Republicans want to cut spending now.

Republicans call attention to the country having surpassed $30 trillion in debt though the party went along with three debt limit increases during the Trump presidency without cuts to spending.

After months of declining to negotiate – and with just days or perhaps a couple of weeks to go until the Treasury Department runs out of extraordinary measures to avoid default – the White House is now in active daily talks with Republicans.

Biden cut short his overseas trip to the G7, a meeting of leaders from the world's largest economies, because of the debt-limit standoff, signaling the importance of finding a resolution.

President Joe Biden meets with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy of Calif., to discuss the debt limit in the Oval Office of the White House, Monday, May 22, 2023, in Washington.
Alex Brandon / AP
/
AP
President Joe Biden meets with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy of Calif., to discuss the debt limit in the Oval Office of the White House, Monday, May 22, 2023, in Washington.

On the preferred approach to raising the debt ceiling, three-quarters of Democrats want the limit raised first without cuts, while two-thirds of Republicans said they want cuts tied to it. Independents were split, but a slight plurality – 48% to 45% – said they want to see cuts.

GenZ/Millennials are the most likely (57%) generation to say they want to see a clean debt ceiling raise. It's another example of this younger generation being more liberal on economic issues than older generations. Over the last several months, the Marist poll has found that to be the case on issues ranging from raising taxes on the wealthy to pay down the federal debt to increasing the minimum wage to whether it's the federal government's responsibility to provide health care.

The survey of 1,286 adults was conducted from May 15-18 with live interviewers using mixed modalities – by phone, cell phone and landlines, text and online. The poll has a margin of error of +/- 3.4 percentage points, meaning results could be about 3 points higher or lower than reported.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Domenico Montanaro is NPR's senior political editor/correspondent. Based in Washington, D.C., his work appears on air and online delivering analysis of the political climate in Washington and campaigns. He also helps edit political coverage.