This has been said before but it cannot be said enough. Republican presidential candidates and Republican members of Congress are out of touch with Republican voters on the necessity of raising taxes to reduce the budget deficit. A Washington Post-Bloomberg News poll conducted Oct. 6-9 found that 68 percent of all voters and 54 percent of Republican and Republican-leaning voters favored raising taxes on incomes above $250,000 (i.e., the Obama plan) to tackle the deficit. On the question of whether to reduce Social Security or Medicare benefits to reduce the deficit, 83 and 82 percent, respectively, of all voters opposed. For Republicans and Republican-leaners, these proportions were only slightly lower: 79 and 77 percent, respectively. Entitlement spending will have to be cut, of course, to reduce the deficit, because entitlement spending represents a majority of all federal spending. (Only one-fifth of federal spending resides in the "non-defense discretionary" category currently being whittled to the bone.) But that option is pretty unpopular with just about everyone and it is therefore politically unwise for Republican politicians to try to balance the budget through spending cuts alone.
How about those freeberty loving, constitutional conservatives?:
To whom, exactly, do Republican officeholders and candidates think they're pandering? The Tea Party? Evidence has begun to trickle in that even the Tea Party isn't as anti-tax as Republican party leaders. On Aug. 1 the New York Times ran a Page One story by Kate Zernike (who recently published a book about the Tea Party) that said "the power of the Tea Party as a singular force may be more phantom than reality." Zernike then went on to report: "When Tea Party supporters were asked if the debt-ceiling agreement should include only tax increases, only spending cuts, or a combination of both, the majority — 53 percent — said that it should include a combination. Forty-five percent preferred only spending cuts." The story didn't get much play elsewhere because readers couldn't wrap their minds around it. How could Tea Party supporters not be thinking like ... Tea Party supporters? And if the Tea Party hasn't kidnapped the Republican party, who the hell has?
Two things I can think of to explain this:
These polls are asking Republicans as whole and not likely voters. I'd presume that those Republicans who are more likely to vote aren't as in favor of tax increases as Republicans are in general. If that is the case, elected Republican officials are probably doing their own polling of likely voters and finding that they are less likely to support tax increases. Politicians are going to be less likely to care about what non-voters think. So the weigh the views of the likely voters more.
The other thing is also tied to voting, but more on the campaigning side. The people who are inclined to give money to politicians are likely to be those who have a vested interest in not seeing incomes above $250k taxed more. So like the non-voters thing, politicians are going to weigh those opinions more than others because they rely on their donations and the fact that they are also more likely to vote. This point is actually verified by research. I don't have that research available at hand to link you to. But basically it shows that politicians are more responsive to people with more money than to those with less.
So until Republicans who don't vote and those who don't donate money to Republican politicians make their voices heard and vote more, their elected officials will continue to ignore their desire to help balance the budget through higher taxes on the rich. And they will also continue to chip away at SS and Medicare/Medicaid at their expense.
* One side note. It could be that the framing of the questions in the poll are skewing responses to make it look like Republicans favor stuff they actually don't. But as far as I can tell, the questions look pretty straightforward. So it doesn't look like the framing is making a big difference.