As talks between Republican and Democratic leaders lumber on in Washington, the American public sees an economic crisis looming if Congress is unable to raise the country's debt ceiling. But the people seem just as conflicted on the issue as their elected representatives.
An Associated Press-GfK poll released last week highlights the apparent conflict in public opinion. Six in 10 said that if no deal is reached and the U.S. defaults on its debts, a major economic crisis was likely. Yet only half as many, 30 percent, said they supported raising the debt limit to avoid such a default.
There is a connection between the two questions. Those who said an economic crisis was "extremely likely" if the U.S. defaulted were most apt to say they backed an increase in the debt limit — 40 percent said they would support raising it and 17 percent said they opposed an increase in the debt limit to avoid default, while 42 percent were neutral. Similarly, those who said a crisis was unlikely were more apt to oppose raising the federal debt limit — 47 percent opposed it, 16 percent supported it and 37 percent were neutral.
The common thread? All those neutral views. On this deeply complex issue, a lot of people are just not sure what to do, regardless of how big a crisis they see in the distance. All told, nearly half of Americans say they neither support nor oppose raising the federal debt limit in order to avoid defaulting on U.S. government debts.
The plurality choosing a neutral position could reflect a public that hasn't yet sorted through the implications of such a policy change. Or it could reflect a lack of knowledge on the issue or simply a lack of strong feelings about it.
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