Democrat Voters Now Strongest Supporters of Balanced Budget Constitutional Amendment

By John Berthoud, National Taxpayers Union and Pete Sepp | April 3, 2003 | 7:29pm EST

(Editor's Note: The following is a poll from the National Taxpayers Union and NTU Foundation released April 3, 2003.)

For Immediate Release
Thursday, April 3, 2003

Despite War Jitters, Public at Large Backs Measure by 2 to 1 Margin
(Alexandria, VA) - In a finding that shocked even the pollsters themselves, a new public opinion survey reports that registered Democrat voters now support a Constitutional Amendment to require a balanced federal budget even more than the measure's traditional backers, Republicans and Independents. Meanwhile, in spite of being asked during the initial phase of the ground war in Iraq, the general public still favors the Amendment by an overwhelming 2 to 1 margin. The poll was conducted by the prestigious firm Fabrizio, McLaughlin and Associates for the National Taxpayers Union (NTU).

"Democrat politicians who rail against the Balanced Budget Amendment in Congress and on the campaign trail are doing so at their own political risk," said NTU President John Berthoud. "With nearly 7 out of 10 registered Democrat voters supporting the Amendment, Congressional opponents should re-think their position and stop standing in the way of an honest vote." Among the poll results:

When asked, "Would you feel more secure about America's economic future if there were a U.S. Constitutional requirement that the federal budget must be balanced during peacetime? This means it could not run a deficit," 65% of the respondents said "Yes," and 26% said "No" (the remainder were undecided or wouldn't answer). The survey of 1,000 adults was conducted March 22-23, with a +/-3.1% error margin in 95 out of 100 cases.

Questioning only those 865 respondents identified as registered voters, Democrats were most enthusiastic about the Amendment (69%-21%), followed by Independents (66%-26%) and Republicans (61%-31%). Although such support may be politically - as well as economically - motivated, those Congressional Democrats who typically dismiss the measure still seem especially vulnerable to criticism from their rank-and-file party members.

Respondents were then asked a more detailed question: "Would you support or oppose a Balanced Budget Amendment to the U.S. Constitution if it includes a waiver for war or military conflict, or for a recession or national emergency as determined by a three-fifths vote of Congress?" In this case, opposition to the Amendment was weaker (66%-19%).

In February, Congressmen Ernest Istook, Jr. (R-OK), Charles Stenholm (D-TX), and some 100 of their colleagues introduced H.J. Res. 22, the same Balanced Budget Amendment that passed the House with 300 votes in 1995, only to fall one vote short of the same required 2/3 margin in the Senate. If the measure passes both chambers this year, 3/4 of the states would need to ratify the Amendment before it could become part of the Constitution. NTU testified before Congress on behalf of H.J. Res. 22 last month.

"Americans understand that a Balanced Budget Amendment would help Washington deal better with bad times by keeping the nation's finances on an even keel during good times," Berthoud concluded. "Elected leaders of all political stripes should recognize this fact too."

The National Taxpayers Union is a non-partisan grassroots citizen organization founded in 1969 to work for lower taxes, less wasteful spending and accountable government at all levels. NTU was the original sponsoring taxpayer organization of the BBA (along with federal and state lawmakers), and has sought the Amendment's passage since 1975.

Note: Full poll results, along with NTU's Balanced Budget Amendment testimony, are available online at

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