In U.S., Slim Majority Supports Economic Stimulus Plan

by Lydia Saad

Issue is highly charged along partisan lines

PRINCETON, NJ -- As President Barack Obama tries to win over reluctant Republicans on his economic stimulus plan, a slim majority of the American public wants to see Congress pass the roughly $800 billion package of new government spending and tax breaks. According to Gallup Poll Daily tracking on Tuesday, 52% of the nation's adults are in favor of Congress passing the plan and 37% are opposed, while 11% have no opinion.

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Lobbying for and against the bill has intensified in recent weeks, led by Obama, himself, appearing on Capitol Hill to argue for it, as conservative media personalities offer up blistering critiques. Republican leaders in Congress have mostly stayed on the sidelines.

Despite all the focus on the plan, public opinion on the subject is virtually identical to where it stood three weeks ago. A Gallup Poll conducted Jan. 6-7 found 53% of Americans in favor of Congress passing a major economic stimulus program (then estimated at $775 billion) while 36% were opposed.

Current attitudes about the plan remain strongly partisan. Nearly three in four Democrats (73%) favor its passage while 59% of Republicans are opposed. Political independents are closely split, with 46% in favor and 40% opposed -- not an extraordinary level of support for the plan among the political center.

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Implications

Although the stimulus package is expected to pass the U.S. House of Representatives with little difficulty, Obama continues to seek Republican support as it moves to the Senate. Without that bipartisan buy in -- not just in Congress, but from American citizens -- Obama could pay a heavier price, long term, if the stimulus spending is not ultimately perceived as successful.

Although former President George W. Bush enjoyed high overall job approval ratings at the time he first sent U.S. troops to Iraq in 2003 (and had majority support for the decision to begin the war), that decision provoked a significant partisan breach that ultimately led to the downfall of his popularity. While Obama doesn't need Republicans' support to pass this plan, he clearly sees the benefit in attempting to maintain GOP goodwill toward his presidency.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,053 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Jan. 27, 2009. For results based on the 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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