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May 24, 2013 12:26 PM Sequestration Can Be Bad For Your (Political) Health

By Ed Kilgore

Since it’s Furlough Friday, a day when by recent tradition conservatives get together to festively celebrate how little across-the-board budget cuts actually affect anyone who matters, some findings from last week’s WaPo/ABC poll, as explained by ABC’s Gary Langer, are perhaps in order:

The federal budget sequester may be dampening a rise in economic optimism: Nearly four in 10 Americans now say sequestration has hurt them personally, up substantially since it began in March - and they’re far less sanguine than others about the economy’s prospects overall.
Thirty-seven percent in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll say they’ve been negatively impacted by the budget cuts, up from 25 percent in March. As previously, about half of those affected say the harm has been “major.”

And as the effects of the sequester spread, the trend lines are unmistakable and cut across partisan and ideological lines:

More Americans continue to disapprove than approve of sequestration, now by 56-35 percent - again, a view influenced by experience of the cuts. Eight in 10 of those who report serious harm oppose the cuts, as do about two-thirds of those slightly harmed. But the majority, which has felt no impacts, divides exactly evenly - 46 percent favor the cuts, vs. 46 percent opposed.
Further, this poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates, finds that 39 percent overall “strongly” disapprove of the cuts - but that soars to 66 percent of those who say they’ve been harmed in a major way. (Just 16 percent overall strongly approve.) Experience of the cuts even trumps partisanship and ideology: Among Republicans, conservatives and Tea Party supporters who’ve been harmed by the cuts, most oppose them. Support is far higher among those in these groups who haven’t felt an impact of sequestration….
Ideology has an effect: Forty-seven percent of “very” conservative Americans approve of the cuts, as do 42 percent of those who call themselves “somewhat” conservative. It’s 36 percent among moderates and 24 percent among liberals. But again, impacts of the cuts are a bigger factor in views on the issue. Among conservatives hurt by the cuts, 65 percent disapprove of them; among those unhurt, just 34 percent disapprove.

This means, of course, that the strongest constituency for the sequester is “very conservative” voters who have not been personally affected by the cuts. If that sounds like the “conservative base” that exerts a particularly strong influence on Republican lawmakers, maybe we have an explanation for why so many of said lawmakers incautiously chortled about the whole thing being a nothingburger that proved government had plenty of excess fat to shed.

They might want to rethink that position.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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