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Big Political Divide on Proposals to Raise Taxes on Wealthy

As the White House and Congress prepare for negotiations on ways to avoid the so-called “fiscal cliff,” Democrats and Republicans will go to the bargaining table representing constituencies with sharply different views on key components of any deal.

The challenge facing the Obama administration and lawmakers is illustrated by the fact that, when asked about a dozen specific options for reducing the debt and deficit, only two won majority approval from the public in a survey conducted Oct. 4-7.

The proposal with the highest level of approval would raise the tax rate on income above $250,000. Overall, 64% of Americans supported doing so while 29% disapproved. However, that proposal also brought with it the sharpest partisan divide. Among registered voters, more than eight-in-ten (84%) Obama supporters backed raising taxes on income above $250,000 compared with 41% of Romney voters — a difference of 43 percentage points.

The second biggest divide was over whether there should be reductions in military defense spending. Nearly six-in-ten (58%) Obama supporters said there should be, compared with 16% of Romney voters — a 42 percentage point difference.

The area of possible spending cuts that drew the greatest opposition from the overall public was education. Three-quarters of Americans were against such cuts compared with 22% who approved of them. While there were partisan differences on this issue, the gap was much smaller than on taxing the wealthy or defense spending. More than eight-in-ten (83%) Obama voters disapproved of education cuts compared with 64% of Romney supporters. Read More