July 18, 2011

Obama Draws More Confidence than Boehner, McConnell or Cantor on Debt Ceiling

The public expresses far more confidence in President Obama than it does in congressional leaders of both parties when it comes to the debate over the debt ceiling. Nonetheless, only about half of Americans (48%) have even a fair amount of confidence in Obama to do the right thing when it comes to dealing with the debt ceiling, while nearly as many (49%) say they have not too much confidence or no confidence at all in the president on this issue.

The latest national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press and The Washington Post, conducted July 14-17 among 1,006 adults, finds that the GOP’s top leaders – House Speaker John Boehner, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor – draw even less public confidence.

Just 33% have a great deal or fair amount of confidence in Boehner to do the right thing in dealing with the debt ceiling, while 30% say the same about McConnell and 26% have at least a fair amount of confidence in Cantor. Ratings for Democratic leaders are equally low – 29% for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and 27% for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

Confidence in Obama on the debt ceiling issue is sharply divided along partisan lines. Fully 82% of Democrats say they have a great deal or fair amount of confidence in him, while 83% of Republicans say they do not.

Most independents are skeptical of Obama: 42% express at least some confidence in him on the debt ceiling while 56% say they have little or no confidence in him. Nonetheless, this is more confidence than independents have in any congressional leader. Just 28% of independents say they have a great deal or fair amount of confidence in Boehner to handle the debt ceiling issue, and the proportion is even lower for the other congressional leaders tested.

In part, the low ratings for congressional leaders reflect their lower visibility. Roughly two-in-ten Americans (25%) offer no opinion of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, and some also have no impression of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (19%), John Boehner (17%) and Harry Reid (16%). Just 10% offer no opinion of Nancy Pelosi.

However, even among those who offer an opinion, Obama draws more confidence than do GOP or Democratic leaders. Nearly half (49%) of those who have an opinion say they have at least a fair amount of confidence in Obama. That compares with 40% for Boehner, 37% for McConnell, 35% for Cantor, 33% for Pelosi and 32% for Reid, among those expressing an opinion.

Republicans Divided over McConnell, Cantor

Overall, most Republicans (59%) say they have at least a fair amount of confidence in John Boehner on the debt ceiling. But Republican opinion is divided when it comes to Mitch McConnell and Eric Cantor, with roughly as many Republicans saying they have little or no confidence as saying they have a great deal or a fair amount.

Most Democrats (54%) have at least a fair amount of confidence in Nancy Pelosi in handling the debt ceiling, but Harry Reid gets mixed ratings from Democrats: 42% have a great deal or a fair amount of confidence in Reid, while 41% have little or no confidence.

The three GOP leaders receive positive ratings on the debt ceiling from Republicans and Republican-leaning independents who agree with the Tea Party. However, more Republican Tea Party supporters express at least a fair amount of confidence in John Boehner (69%) than in Eric Cantor (55%) or Mitch McConnell (49%).

Republicans and GOP leaners who do not agree with the Tea Party have less confidence in Republican leaders – 43% express at least a fair amount of confidence in Boehner, 33% in McConnell and 31% in Cantor.