Blame breaks evenly if government defaults on debt, despite preference for Biden’s position: POLL


(WASHINGTON) — Americans divide closely on whom they’d blame if the federal government defaults on its debts, even as most align with the Biden administration’s position on how Congress should handle the issue.

If default occurs — as Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said Monday could happen by June 1 — 39% in this ABC News/Washington Post poll say they’d mainly blame the Republicans in Congress, while virtually as many, 36%, say they’d mainly blame Biden. Sixteen percent volunteer that they’d blame both equally.

That looks like a messaging snafu on President Joe Biden’s part, since many more people take his side than the Republican position on the issue. Fifty-eight percent say debt payment and federal spending cuts should be handled separately, as Biden has argued. Far fewer, 26%, take the GOP view that Congress should let government pay its debts only if the administration agrees to spending cuts.

Support for Biden’s position on the debt ceiling has lost 7 percentage points since February, dropping from 65% to 58% in this poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates. However, the share who favor linking the debt ceiling with spending cuts has not grown; instead, more now are undecided.


While there are wide partisan differences in these views, it’s notable that 46% of Republicans part company with the party’s leadership in Washington and say the issues should be kept separate; 40% of Republicans instead favor linking them. Preference to keep debt payments and federal spending cuts as separate issues reaches 58% among independents and 74% among Democrats. (Both are down from the levels last month, when the question was preceded by one on concern about a default.)

In ideological terms, 75% of liberals and 61% of moderates prefer keeping the issues separate — as do 56% of people who describe themselves as somewhat conservative. This flips among those who are very conservative. In this group, just 36% favor separation, while 52% say the government should be allowed to pay its debt only if spending cuts are included.

Who’d actually take the blame in a default depends on the eventual circumstances. But as things stand, views are highly partisan. Among Republicans, 78% would mainly blame Biden. Among Democrats, 78% would mainly blame the Republicans in Congress. And independents divide three ways, but with a slight tilt in Biden’s favor: Thirty-seven percent say they’d mainly blame the GOP; 29%, mainly Biden; and 24%, both equally.


This ABC News/Washington Post poll was conducted by landline and cellular telephone April 28 to May 3, 2023, in English and Spanish, among a random national sample of 1,006 adults. Partisan divisions are 26-25-41%, Democrats-Republicans-independents. Results have a margin of sampling error of 3.5 percentage points, including the design effect. Sampling error is not the only source of differences in polls.

The survey was produced for ABC News by Langer Research Associates, with sampling and data collection by Abt Associates of Rockville, Maryland. See details on the survey’s methodology here.

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