Initial Bailout Falling Out of Favor With Americans

by Lymari Morales

More likely now than in October to see it as a “bad thing”

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- With lawmakers weighing the prospect of a multi-billion dollar bailout for the U.S. auto industry, Gallup finds its $700 billion predecessor falling out of favor with Americans. Since October, Americans have flipped from being more positive than negative on the Wall Street bailout, 50% to 41%, to being slightly more negative than positive, 47% to 46%.


The $700 billion package for U.S. financial institutions signed into law in early October was supposed to be the tourniquet to stop the bleeding of the U.S. economy. And while the United States has not seen further collapse of major financial institutions, the economy continues to struggle. Further, the Government Accountability Office last week reported that the legislation did not incorporate enough safeguards to oversee how financial institutions spent the money, prompting the Senate this week to appoint New York prosecutor Neil M. Barofsky to oversee the program.

In particular, support for the Wall Street bailout has fallen off strongly among higher income Americans. In October, those making more than $75,000 per year supported the legislation more strongly than any other income group -- with 57% calling it a good thing. Now, just 41% call it a good thing, on par with or below their lower income counterparts, whose support has stayed about the same or even increased slightly.


Republicans have also registered a steep plunge in their support. While 50% of Republicans in October called the legislation a good thing, just 35% say the same now. Support among independents has also fallen off slightly, while support among Democrats is up slightly.


Overall, Americans' views of the Wall Street bailout now, two months after it was signed into law, are barely more favorable than views of the prospect of an auto industry bailout, both among Americans overall and within party groups.


Not surprisingly, those who still consider the Wall Street bailout to be a good thing are far more likely to support similar assistance for the auto industry, while those who consider the Wall Street legislation a "bad thing" are far more likely to oppose it.


Bottom Line

Considering the relatively low levels of support for an auto industry bailout and the falloff in support for the Wall Street bailout, lawmakers considering the legislation should be aware of the possibility that Americans will become more disapproving if they do not perceive swift benefits. Overall, the lack of a positive perception of the assistance package passed in October suggests that Americans don't necessarily see government money as the key to solving the country's economic problems. In fact, these recent poll results only bolster previous Gallup findings in which Americans signaled far greater support for policies that would increase government regulation over those that would provide financial assistance to struggling industries.

Survey Methods

Results from Dec. 4-7, 2008 are based on telephone interviews with 1,009 national adults, aged 18 and older. Results from Oct. 3-5, 2008 are based on telephone interviews with 1,011 national adults, aged 18 and older. For results based on each total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points.

Interviews are conducted with respondents on land-line telephones (for respondents with a land-line telephone) and cellular phones (for respondents who are cell-phone only).

In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

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