POLLS:The 2012 Election, Debt Ceiling, Patriotism, and Entrepreneurship in the US, China, and Europe

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 21, 2011

In the latest Political Report American Enterprise Institute (AEI) Senior Fellow and polling expert Karlyn Bowman and researcher Andrew Rugg examine American public opinion. They find that President Obama remains a strong candidate for re-election, the public's views are murky on the debt ceiling, patriotism remains high, and Americans are more like the Chinese than Europeans when it comes to entrepreneurship.
Obama and the Election

Obama remains a strong candidate. He beats a generic Republican by a large margin. In only one recent poll (the June ABC/Post poll), did any Republican run even with Obama. In the poll, Mitt Romney ran even with him.

Views on Obama's handling of the economy are down significantly. In the latest ABC/Washington Post poll, 59 percent disapprove of his handling of the economy. Sarah Palin's negative ratings are unusually high. Only a quarter in the new CBS poll would like to see her run for president. Sixty-four percent in the ABC/Post poll say they would definitely not vote for her, including 41 percent of self-identified Republicans.

Debt Ceiling

Most polls show Americans don't want to raise the debt limit without some significant spending cuts. But the strength of that response varies based upon question wording.

Depending on how questions are worded and what is emphasized, polls give different impressions about raising the debt ceiling. For example, seventy-one percent told ABC and the Washington Post that if the debt limit is not raised, it would cause serious harm to the U.S. economy. On the other hand, fifty-three percent in a Fox News poll agreed that it's an exaggeration to say if Congress doesn't raise the debt limit, the government will go into default and there will be a financial catastrophe.

Eighty-five percent of respondents told CBS pollsters that the debate in Washington concerning the debt ceiling is mostly about political gain.

Patriotism

Immediately after 9/11, there were many overt displays of patriotism. In August 2002, for example, 75 percent told the Pew Research Center that they display the flag at their home or office. Only 58 percent gave that response in March of 2010.

While Americans remain proud of their country, they are deeply dissatisfied with current performance and believe the country is on the wrong track. Sixty-five percent told Pew pollsters in March that they trust the government "only sometimes." In a June ABC/Washington Post poll, 66 percent say things in the country are heading in the wrong track.

Americans still believe that we have the best system of government in the world. Seventy-seven percent told Kaiser, Harvard, and Washington Post pollsters that whatever its faults, the United States still has the best system of government in the world. Americans are very proud of their country. In May, 86 percent told CBS and The New York Times that they were extremely or very proud to be an American.

Entrepreneurial Spirit

Americans look a lot more like the Chinese than the Europeans, when European, Chinese, and American attitudes about entrepreneurship are compared.

Americans are the most likely to say they are risk takers, and they have the most positive views of entrepreneurs.

Respondents from all three countries agree that administrative processes make it difficult for them to start a business.

Karlyn Bowman, is an AEI Senior Fellow and political and polling expert. She compiles and analyzes American public opinion using polling data. She has also studied and spoken about the evolution of American politics because of key demographic and geographic changes. Bowman can be reached at kbowman@aei.org or 202.862.5917.

Andrew Rugg can be reached at andrew.rugg@aei.org or 202.862.5917.

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