Many Americans See Stimulus’ Costs, Not Benefits

by Jeffrey M. Jones

Slim majority thinks it would be better to spend less on stimulus

PRINCETON, NJ -- Several months after it was passed, Americans have their share of reservations about the economic stimulus plan. A slim majority of Americans, 51%, including most Republicans and independents, say it would have been better for the government to have spent less money to stimulate the economy. Three in 10 Americans -- including nearly half of Democrats -- say the government is spending the right amount, while 13% of the public believes the government should be spending more.


In addition to the amount being spent, a substantial proportion of Americans (46%) say they are "very worried" that money from the economic stimulus plan is being wasted. Only 20% say they are not worried about wasteful stimulus spending.

These results are based on the most recent USA Today/Gallup poll, conducted Aug. 6-9.

These concerns come on top of doubts about the effectiveness of the stimulus plan. While 41% of Americans think the stimulus plan is making the economy better than it would be if the plan had not been passed, 33% say it is not having an effect, and 24% believe it is making the economy worse.

That short-term assessment is actually more optimistic than what Americans project for the long-term: the percentage saying the stimulus plan will make the economy worse in the long run matches the percentage that believe it will ultimately make the economy better (38%).


Two thirds of Democrats believe the stimulus plan is already improving the economy, a view shared by 35% of independents and 18% of Republicans. Republicans are about evenly divided over whether the economy is worse off (41%) or not any different (39%) than it would have been if no stimulus plan had passed.


Republicans are even more likely to take a dim view of the stimulus plan in the long-term, as 62% believe the economy will be worse as a result. Democrats are about as likely to think it will benefit the economy over the long haul (69%). More independents expect the stimulus bill to hurt the economy in the long run (42%) rather than improve it (32%).


Some experts have argued that the amount included in the stimulus plan was actually less than was needed to pull the country out of the recession, and there has been some discussion that a second stimulus bill may be necessary. The public, not surprisingly given the reviews of the current stimulus plan, does not have much of an appetite for a second stimulus bill -- 65% are opposed, while 29% are in favor.

Republicans and independents widely oppose a second stimulus bill, while Democrats are somewhat more likely to favor than oppose it.


Bottom Line

It is still too early to judge whether the economic stimulus package will help the economy, as only a fraction of the money in the bill has been spent thus far. The American public, too, has yet to reach a consensus as to whether the economic stimulus bill is helping the economy, hurting it, or not making much difference. However, a substantial proportion of Americans are concerned about the amount of money that will be spent, and whether it will be wasted.

Since consumer confidence has perked up in recent weeks -- perhaps due to better-than-expected unemployment numbers and GDP numbers released earlier this month -- the public may see less of a need for additional stimulus legislation. But if Congress and the president decide one is necessary, they could encounter stiff public opposition to a second stimulus bill.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,010 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Aug. 6-9, 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 ±4 percentage points.

Please click on page 2 for full question wording.








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