A National Journal poll finds widespread support—58 percent in favor to 32 percent against—for extending the payroll tax cut:
Respondents were read the following arguments before being asked if Congress should extend the payroll-tax cut: “Supporters say this tax cut gives people more money to spend and helps the economy. Opponents say it increases the federal debt without doing much to help the economy.”
Support for extending the payroll-tax cut—despite concerns about the budget deficit—is broad and bipartisan. Democrats favor an extension, 68 percent to 25 percent. Half of Republicans think Congress should extend the payroll-tax reduction, while 39 percent think they should not. Among independents, 57 percent favor an extension, while a third do not.
You know they just had to get the word "deficit" in there somehow, to make the poll fit the Beltway obsession with the deficit; notice, too, that there's no mention of the legitimate concern that it might undermine Social Security.
The poll also asked about extending emergency unemployment benefits, asking respondents whether they supported keeping the current 99-week limit, cutting eligibility back to a maximum of 26 weeks, or something in between:
A plurality—46 percent—prefer a new limit between a wide range of 26 weeks and 99 weeks, while 29 percent favor keeping the current 99-week limit, and 20 percent want benefits capped at 26 weeks. Democrats are split, with 44 percent favoring a new limit between 26 and 99 weeks and 43 percent wanting Congress to keep benefits at 99 weeks. A 51-percent majority of Republicans want Congress to set a new limit between 26 and 99 weeks, compared to 30 percent who want the limit reduced to 26 weeks. Forty-eight percent of independents want a new limit between 26 and 99 weeks, 27 percent favor extending the current 99-week law, and 21 percent support limiting benefits to 26 weeks.
Where the question about the payroll tax cut had to include an argument in favor of it in order to shoehorn in the almighty deficit, the question about unemployment benefits didn't include arguments for and against. So respondents didn't hear that in fact only people in the states with the worst unemployment levels are eligible for 99 weeks of coverage, that unemployment benefits provide greater economic stimulus than tax cuts, that Congress has never reduced the weeks of benefits when the unemployment rate was so high, or that there are currently more than four job seekers for every available job in this country. Who knows if it would have made a difference in this one poll, but it sure would be nice if the political establishment considered any of those facts relevant.