President Obama starts his second term with a clear upper hand over GOP leaders on issues from guns to immigration that are likely to dominate the year, a USA TODAY/Pew Research Center Poll finds. On the legislation rated most urgent — cutting the budget deficit — even a majority of Republican voters endorse Obama’s approach of seeking tax hikes as well as spending cuts.
The survey underscores the quandary for the GOP as it debates the party’s message in the wake of disappointing losses last November for the White House and in the Senate.
Now just 22% of Americans, nearly a record low, consider themselves Republicans.
And those automatic spending cuts, known as the sequester, that are poised to take effect next week?
If no deal is reached to avert them, half of Americans say congressional Republicans will be more to blame. Less than a third would blame Obama first.
“On many of the issues, President Obama has staked out positions that seem to be closer to the public’s thinking than the positions Republicans have staked out,” says Michael Dimock, director of the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press. The poll is the first in a new partnership between Pew and USA TODAY. “The challenge for him is in building the public’s sense of immediacy on some of these issues, particularly on climate change and guns.”
Republicans have the opposite challenge. “Their focus on the deficit is in tune with the public’s priorities right now,” he says. “Yet their positions are not quite in step with the kind of compromises that the public tells us they want to see.”0