As House Republicans meet in Williamsburg, Va., to debate ways to improve their image, a new poll suggests how far the GOP has fallen in public esteem.
Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg says his survey shows that "voters do not trust the Republicans' priorities and judgment" and consider them "extreme in protecting millionaires at the expense of the middle class and poor."
In a memo to reporters, Greenberg says he tested various themes with the public and found that "progressives' best messages begin with the struggling middle class that both parties promised to help. And that means above all making sure there are no cuts in benefits for Medicare and Social Security. We should get health care costs down, tax the richest, and get rid of special interest subsidies. But we can't ask the middle class and seniors to pay what they can't afford."
Specifically, Greenberg found that Americans tend to favor economic policies that hard-line Republicans have opposed in the past because GOP economic theory holds that higher taxes on the rich would hurt "job producers."
Greenberg says 71 percent of Americans favor lifting the current payroll tax cap, which exempts wages above $110,100 from Social Security taxes; requiring upper-income earners to pay more, and using the revenue to shore up Social Security.
Sixty-eight percent of Americans favor increasing Medicare premiums for higher-income earners by 15 percent over five years.
Sixty-eight percent favor allowing homeowners to deduct a maximum of $500,000 in mortgage interest from their taxes instead of the current limit of $1 million, and the same percentage favors eliminating the home mortgage deduction for second homes.
One ray of hope for GOP is that "the conservative message focused on [cutting] spending is still very attractive and makes sense to voters," Greenberg says.
He conducted the poll for Democracy Corps, a think tank oriented toward the Democratic party. Greenberg was an adviser to President Bill Clinton.
More than 70 percent of Americans disapprove of the job Republicans are doing in Congress, and about 60 percent consider the GOP "extreme" on women's issues, on immigration, on promoting the interests of the rich and big corporations, and in dealing with the poor, the Greenberg poll says.
House Republicans are holding a retreat in Williamsburg to figure out a way forward after setbacks in the November election.
Ken Walsh covers the White House and politics for U.S. News. He writes the daily blog "Ken Walsh's Washington" for usnews.com, and is the author of "The Presidency" column for the U.S. News Weekly. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Facebook and Twitter.