March 28, 2011- It was supposed to be one of the clearest messages of the 2010 elections: Voters were finally fed up with government spending.
It felt like the usual rules had changed, and that Americans were worried enough about the size of government to support a new era of belt-tightening. They wanted leaders to make the tough choices – and would stick by the ones who did.
Now, a new wave of polling has challenged that consensus, raising serious questions about whether voters really are yearning for a grown-up conversation about the cost of government — or would simply rather keep punting the problem down the road, just like in the past.
Almost every governor who’s tried to deliver a take-your-medicine message has paid a price. And widespread polling data suggests a chasm between what Americans say they want and the price they’re prepared to pay to get there.
In Ohio, Republican Gov. John Kasich’s approval rating stood at just 30 percent last week, according to a Quinnipiac University poll. Earlier in the month — even before Kasich detailed a budget featuring cuts to Medicaid, local governments and more — the University of Cincinnati had that number at 40 percent. Both surveys showed nearly half of voters disapproved of Kasich.
In Connecticut, Democratic Gov. Dan Malloy is also underwater in the polls—he clocked a 35-percent approval, 40-percent disapproval rating after unveiling a combination of tax hikes and spending cuts to close a more than $3 billion deficit.
Even New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie – an icon of conservative austerity, whose clashes with big labor and tough-talking ways have made him a national Republican hero – has seen voters respond with hesitation to his spending plan.
Christie’s favorability rating is still in barely positive territory, but a Rutgers-Eagleton poll found it dropped by a net of 10 percentage points in the wake of Christie’s February budget address.
It turns out there’s a reason they call them tough choices.