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As President Barack Obama and Republicans in Congress continued their high-stakes stand-off over raising the debt ceiling and other federal budget issues, Obama held a press conference to press his case that he's a reasonable guy.
One of the main points of contention is whether an agreement should include tax increases of any kind, such as closing tax loopholes or tax increases on the wealthy. Republicans oppose raising taxes.
"My Republican friends have said that they’re not willing to do revenues, and they have repeated that on several occasions," Obama said. "My hope, though, is that they’re listening, not just to lobbyists or special interests here in Washington, but they’re also listening to the American people. Because it turns out poll after poll, many done by your organizations, show that it’s not just Democrats who think we need to take a balanced approach; it’s Republicans as well. The clear majority of Republican voters think that any deficit reduction package should have a balanced approach and should include some revenues. That’s not just Democrats; that’s the majority of Republicans."
Obama also said that most polls show the general public thinks a balanced approach is right, and we explored those polls in detail in a separate fact-check. But was he right that a "clear majority" of Republicans also agreed?
We found three recent polls with information on responses by partisan affiliation.
The poll that most supported Obama's statement was a Gallup poll conducted July 7-10, 2011, which posed the question this way:
"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 here, about 68 percent of Republicans were open to some tax increases.
But a Quinnipiac University poll conducted July 5-11, 2011, found slightly more Republicans favored only spending cuts, contradicting Obama's statement. It 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.
In June, a Reuters/Ipsos poll found Republicans essentially split on the question. 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 conclusion, we don't find that "poll after poll" showed a "clear majority" of Republicans supporting tax increases. We found one recent poll that supported Obama's statement and two other polls that showed a much more evenly divided picture. We rate it Barely True.
Editor's note: This statement was rated Barely True when it was published. On July 27, 2011, we changed the name for the rating to Mostly False.
The White House, Press Conference by the President, July 15, 2011
PollingReport.com, various polls on the budget, accessed July 15, 2011
Gallup poll, On Deficit, Americans Prefer Spending Cuts; Open to Tax Hikes, July 13, 2011
Quinnipiac University, President Is Best Of The Worst On Economy, U.S. Voters Tell Quinnipiac University National Poll; Voters Blame Bush Over Obama 2-1 For Financial Mess, July 14, 2011
PolitiFact, fact-check on Rep. John Boehner and taxes, June 29, 2011
Interview with Karlyn Bowman of the American Enterprise Institute
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