WASHINGTON - Just 17% of Americans agree with right-wing Republicans who insist Congress should let the U.S. default on its loans rather than raise the debt ceiling without deep spending cuts, according to a new Yahoo News/YouGov poll.

Instead, the public favours — by a 2-to-1 margin — the sort of bipartisan deal struck over the weekend by President Biden and GOP House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. That deal, which includes smaller spending freezes and reductions in exchange for a two-year debt-ceiling hike, is now moving through Congress despite objections from the far-right House Freedom Caucus.

The Yahoo News/YouGov survey of 1,520 U.S. adults was conducted from May 25 to 30, both before and after Biden and McCarthy announced their agreement. As such, it inquired about Republicans’ initial demands for “deep cuts” — and subsequent negotiations over “smaller” cuts — rather than the specifics of the Biden-McCarthy plan.

When asked how they would feel about “President Biden and GOP House Speaker Kevin McCarthy agreeing to smaller spending cuts in order to raise the debt limit, which could be approved with a combination of Democratic and Republican votes,” a clear consensus emerges across party lines.

Overall, twice as many Americans say they would favor such a compromise (43%) as say they would oppose it (21%). And while Democrats were the most positive group (by a 54% to 17% margin), both independents (41% to 20%) and Republicans (43% to 28%) also expressed more support than opposition.

The survey shows similar results to follow-up questions about how House Republicans should react if Biden “refuses to accept deeper Republican spending cuts” (which is effectively what the president did after the House GOP passed its own spending bill last month). In response, a full 56% of Americans say Republicans should either agree to smaller cuts that can pass with Democratic and Republican votes (36%) or agree to raise the debt limit without any spending cuts at all (20%).


Minority favors default


Only a small minority (17%) say the GOP should let the U.S. default on its loans. Even among Republicans, just 27% would support a default in this scenario. Nearly twice as many would favor smaller cuts (41%) or a clean debt-limit hike without belt-tightening (9%).

Nonetheless, Freedom Caucus leaders are currently “attempting to shoot down the agreement ... just days before the country is headed for default,” according to the New York Times — and “float[ing] the idea of calling for McCarthy’s removal” as their plan B.

“If we can’t kill it, we’re going to have to regroup and figure out the whole leadership arrangement again,” Rep. Chip Roy,R-Texas, said Tuesday.

The Yahoo News/YouGov poll suggests these moves would be unpopular. Though the debt ceiling remains a remote and confusing issue for many Americans, more than twice as many recognize that regular votes to raise the limit are intended “to allow the federal government to pay for spending that Congress has already authorized” (48%) rather than “to authorize new spending” (22%).

And while 39% favor and 33% oppose “raising the U.S. debt limit” when asked for their opinion without any additional context, those numbers look very different when other respondents are told that “bipartisan majorities” have “routinely” raised the debt limit “for the last century” in order “to avoid defaulting on America’s past loans — and potentially triggering a global financial crash that could cost millions of U.S. jobs and trillions in stock marketlosses.”

In that case, 49% favor raising the limit while just 22% oppose raising it.

Right now, Americans blame Republicans (37%) roughly as often as Democrats (35%) for the “current gridlock in Congress.” And exactly the same number (36%) blame Biden as blame McCarthy. The question now for the House GOP is whether they will accept a broadly satisfactory “tie” on the debt ceiling — or whether they want to risk something far worse.