People want the tax cuts promised during the presidential campaign, but they may be willing to wait while President-elect Obama takes on the larger issue of fixing the economy.
Only 36 percent say trimming income taxes should be a top priority when the new president takes office in January, according to a new Associated Press-GfK poll. That was less than half the 84 percent who cited improving the economy as a No. 1 goal, and the 80 percent who said creating jobs should be a paramount task.
“I don’t think it’s going to work in this instance,” said Ryan Anderson, 31, a Democrat from Bloomington, Minn., who thinks tax reductions would have little impact on most families’ budgets. “That’s kind of like shooting a BB gun at a freight train.”
Obama promised to cut taxes for working families during the campaign.
Even fewer — 29 percent — said another top priority should be Obama’s plan to allow tax cuts to expire for families earning more than $250,000 a year. He has said he would use the revenue that would raise to help finance some of his priorities.
Amid such talk, 72 percent in the AP-GfK poll voiced confidence Obama will make the changes needed to revive the stalling economy. Underscoring how widely the public is counting on its new leader, 44 percent of Republicans joined nearly all Democrats and most independents in expressing that belief.
Obama has called for about $175 billion in new stimulus spending, including for public works projects, and has said he would make it a top priority in January if it is not enacted by a lame-duck session of Congress and President Bush this year.
The poll shows trust in Obama’s ability to succeed is even broader, at least for now. Sixty-eight percent said they think when he takes office in January, the new president will be able to enact the policies he pushed during his presidential campaign.
“Look at his story,” said Juthlande Anastase, 34, a real estate agent and Republican from Wellington, Fla. “Out of nowhere he’s president. If he can do that, anything is possible.”
With Obama ending the GOP‘s eight-year hold on the White House and about to become the first black president, the poll showed three-quarters saying the election made them feel hopeful, six in 10 proud and one-half excited. Newly elected presidents often embark on a honeymoon period in which the public has highly positive feelings about them.
Democrats were more likely to feel upbeat, yet such feelings were not limited to them. Half of Republicans said they were hopeful, a third proud and nearly a fifth excited about the election results. Another quarter in the GOP said they were depressed.
“I feel let down by the American people that they were so blind to many things I’ve seen in him,” said Shelli Pierson, 38, a Republican from Elmira, Ore. Pierson she doubts Obama, a four-year senator from Illinois, has enough experience for the presidency and said she still questions his patriotism.
Nine in 10 said Obama’s race would have no impact on his ability to get things done.
Though Republicans were more negative about the election results, they were consistently more upbeat than Democrats were in 2004 when their candidate, John Kerry, failed to unseat Bush. Forty-four percent of Democrats said they were angry and half said they were depressed in a November 2004 AP-Ipsos poll, double the GOP’s rates this year.
Highlighting anew how the Iraq war has faded as a paramount public concern, only half in Tuesday’s AP-GfK poll said they wanted Obama to make a U.S. troop withdrawal a top focus, with far more Democrats than Republicans saying so.
Until the weakening economy overtook Iraq as the No. 1 problem on the public’s mind nearly a year ago, Obama’s pledge to set a timetable for withdrawing troops from the war was his highest-profile issue.
Six in 10 cited stabilizing financial institutions and reducing budget deficits as top goals in the AP-GfK survey.
Half said they wanted national health care coverage — another Obama priority — to be a No. 1 concern, with few Republicans agreeing it should be a top goal. Permitting offshore oil drilling, a major GOP campaign issue, drew support as a top priority from just over one-third, mostly Republicans.
Nearly three-quarters — including most Democrats — said they’d like Obama to name some Republicans in his Cabinet, as the Democrat has said he would do.
Most also expressed no problem with the lock Democrats will have on Washington beginning next year. Four in 10 said Democratic control of the White House and Congress will be good for the country while another 2 in 10 said it would make no difference.
Thirty-six percent said the country is moving in the right direction, about double the 17 percent who said so in last month’s AP-GfK poll. Reflecting the election results, half of Democrats now see things heading the right way — quadruple their number who said so in October.
The AP-GfK poll was conducted Nov. 6-10 and involved cell and landline telephone interviews with 1,001 adults. It has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.