As the debate over the nation's budget intensified over the weekend, liberal commentator Paul Krugman lamented that increases in tax revenue were being left out of the overall deal.
"On the politics of this, if you look at the polling, it turns out that the average Republican voter thinks there should be some revenue as part of this deal, right? So the president has agreed to -- not just to an agreement that's way to the right of the average American voter. It's actually to the right of what the average Republican voter wants."
Krugman is saying that even Republican voters support some limited form of tax increases. We looked at a similar statement a few weeks ago from President Barack Obama. Obama said back on July 15, 2011, that "the clear majority of Republican voters think that any deficit reduction package should have a balanced approach and should include some revenues." We rated it Barely True (since re-named Mostly False).
At the time Obama made his statement, we found one recent poll that supported his claim but two other polls that showed a much more evenly divided picture. We wondered if polling data showed growing support from Republicans for increasing tax revenues, in the form of tax increases or closing loopholes and removing exemptions.
Interestingly, the polls we've looked at have shown markedly different results, sometimes showing Republican support for limited tax increases but sometimes showing opposition or an even divide. As pollsters have long noted, sometimes the way the question is phrased can affect the results.
We should note that we didn't consider polls that only asked people if they favored spending cuts or tax increases, since the relevant question is whether people support both spending cuts and tax increases.
Here are the three polls we looked at when we fact-checked the issue a few weeks ago.
• A Gallup poll poll conducted July 7-10, 2011, asked: "As you may know, Congress can reduce the federal budget deficit by cutting spending, raising taxes, or a combination of the two. Ideally, how would you prefer to see Congress attempt to reduce the federal budget deficit: only with spending cuts, mostly with spending cuts, equally with spending cuts and tax increases, mostly with tax increases, or only with tax increases?"
The answer "only spending cuts" got 26 percent from self-identified Republicans. The other answers from Republicans were "mostly spending cuts," 41 percent; "equal spending cuts and tax increases," 24 percent. Another 3 percent favored "mostly" or "only" tax increases. So about 68 percent of Republicans were open to some tax increases.
• A Quinnipiac University poll conducted July 5-11, 2011, asked, "Do you think any agreement to raise the national debt ceiling should include only spending cuts, or should it also include an increase in taxes for the wealthy and corporations?"
In this case, 48 percent of Republicans favored spending cuts only, while 43 percent favored including tax increases. Another 9 percent were unsure.
• A Reuters/Ipsos poll from June asked, "As you probably know, the US budget deficit is currently about $1.4 trillion. There are a number of different solutions being discussed for reducing this deficit. These are cutting existing programs, raising taxes, or some combination of the two. Which approach do you think is best?"
In that poll, 43 percent of Republicans said cut existing programs, while 44 percent favored including tax increases. That result was within the margin of error.
In addition to those three polls, we found three more recent polls.
• A CNN/ORC poll conducted July 18 to 20 asked about the recent discussions on the debt ceiling. It asked, "If you had to choose, would you rather see Congress and President Obama agree to a budget plan that only includes cuts in government spending, or a budget plan that includes a combination of spending cuts and tax increases on higher-income Americans and some businesses?"
That poll found that, among Republicans, 61 percent favored spending cuts only, while 37 percent said spending cuts and tax increases. So this would not support Krugman's statement.
• A Pew Research Poll conducted July 20 to 24 asked, "In your view, what is the best way to reduce the federal budget deficit? Should we mostly focus on cutting major programs, increasing taxes, or should we do a combination of both?"
Among Republicans, 46 percent favored a combination of both, while 39 percent favored cutting programs.
These results would support Krugman's statement.
• Reuters/Ipsos polled again on the debt ceilling on July 25, 2011. It asked its same question from June, whether people favored cutting programs, raising taxes or some combination of the two.
This time, it found that 41 percent of Republicans favored only cutting programs, while 52 percent favored some form of tax increase.
This too would support Krugman's statement.
To summarize these three newer polls, we still find mixed evidence. One poll showed Republicans favor spending cuts only; the other two showed Republicans favor including tax revenue increases.
We e-mailed Krugman about our fact-check, and he referred us to an analysis from the New York Times blog Five Thirty Eight, which specializes in political statistical analysis. Five Thirty Eight analyzed the Gallup poll from early July in some depth, extrapolating what level of tax increases Republicans might support. But it didn't consider the other polls that we've described here.
In conclusion, when we rated a similar statement from Obama a few weeks ago, the evidence seemed more mixed on whether Republicans favor some form of tax increases as part of a budget deal, the way that Democrats and independents do. Now, the polling seems to be moving a bit in Krugman's direction. Nevertheless, the polling results are still conflicted. While we can point to several polls that support Krugman's statement, we can also point to some that refute it. Of the six polls we looked at, three polls showed Republicans favored a package that included some tax revenues, two polls showed opposition, and one poll was a statistical tie. We're not convinced polls show that the average Republican favors some form of tax increases to reduce the deficit. Overall, we rate Krugman's statement Half True.