Andrea Mitchell Dismisses NBC News Poll Finding Americans Don’t Want to Raise Debt Limit

A recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll stumbled across a very interesting finding: 44 percent of respondents said they did not think Congress should raise the debt ceiling before the U.S. reaches it in October, while only half as many (22 percent) said Congress should raise it. On Friday, Andrea Mitchell reported that finding on her eponymous MSNBC program Andrea Mitchell Reports, but she dismissed it as reflecting a public that was ignorant of the debt ceiling debate.

As the poll results flashed on the screen, Mitchell declared, "Our polls show that people are not really that engaged. By two to one they think that Congress really should raise the debt ceiling-- or rather shouldn't, no 44 percent, yes 22 percent. But that seems to be sort of a very marginal number. They are not engaged because the debate is not yet engaged." In other words, Mitchell discounts the result because she believes the American public is blissfully ignorant, a rather condescending take.


It’s true that this particular poll reflects a fairly unengaged public – apparently a full third of respondents had no opinion on the matter. But among the 66 percent who did have an opinion, the results are fascinating. When we last had a debt ceiling debate two years ago, President Obama and his Democratic allies frantically rang the alarm bells, saying that a lack of action would bring about a default that would destroy the economy. But despite that fear-mongering, only 22 percent of respondents definitely want Congress to raise the debt limit this time around.

Twice as many people are not buying into the fear this time. NBC political reporter Kelly O’Donnell, who joined Mitchell for this segment, expressed surprise that so many respondents went against Obama’s position: “And so it's almost surprising that that number says 44 percent say don't raise the debt ceiling, because the president's argument is always that the government has already extended those dollars. They have already put out that money, and it's just about paying the bills.

It appears that the plurality of respondents in this poll are tired of the federal government’s endless debt accumulation. The best way to decrease our debt, of course, is to rein in federal spending. But Mitchell would not dare to draw that conclusion. She and MSNBC undoubtedly side with the 22 percent who want to raise the debt limit, which would allow Obama to continue spending with no course correction in sight. Her network’s own poll placed her in the minority, so Mitchell blamed the results on a public that is “not yet engaged” in the debate.

Below is a transcript of the segment:

ANDREA MITCHELL: And Congress, Kelly, is going to have to deal with the debt ceiling in October. Our polls show that people are not really that engaged. By two to one they think that Congress really should raise the debt ceiling-- or rather shouldn't, no 44 percent, yes 22 percent. But that seems to be sort of a very marginal number. They are not engaged because the debate is not yet engaged.

KELLY O’DONNELL: And it is coming. It will be the story of fall up here on Capitol Hill, where today, I’ve got to tell you there's sort of a slumber effect around here. It had been that every available camera position was busy all week, now it's down to the daily usuals who are here. There is a quiet up on Capitol Hill today as members are in their home districts and states, where this conversation about the debt ceiling and about the budget will begin to bubble up. I think there is a lot of work going on behind the scenes to try to avert a government shutdown to try to not get to the brinksmanship we have seen before. Really no one wants a repeat of 2011, the summer of the debt ceiling fight that really resulted in the downgrading of the U.S. credit rating and just so much turmoil. And so it's almost surprising that that number says 44 percent say don't raise the debt ceiling, because the president's argument is always that the government has already extended those dollars. They have already put out that money, and it's just about paying the bills. Of course those who don't want to see an increase in the debt ceiling are concerned about the long-term health of the country. And then there will be that debate about, should more cuts take place in order to give the president what he will want, which is raising the debt ceiling. The White House doesn't want to negotiate on this. They don't want a long drawn-out struggle. But those sort of rumblings are beginning, and those who are looking ahead, especially the members of Congress who are tasked with being responsible with some of these budget and debt issues, they are already hard at work on this. So be prepared for the fall fight. It will be about the debt.

Paul Bremmer
Paul Bremmer is a Media Research Center News Analysis Division intern.