Gallup: Public Backs Obama in Stimulus Fight
By Jon Cohen
Who has an edge in the stimulus battle?
White House officials, frustrated by Republican claims that they have public opinion on their side, distributed a new Gallup poll this morning showing President Obama with "the upper hand in the stimulus fight."
In that poll, 67 percent of Americans said they approve of the way the president has handled efforts to pass an economic recovery package, while far fewer gave good marks to congressional Democrats (48 percent) or congressional Republicans (31 percent).
Slightly over half, 51 percent, said it's "critically important" that the government pass a bill -- about the same percentage supporting this package in a USA Today-Gallup poll last week.
The fresh poll results follow a blitz this past weekend by Republicans, who seized on a CBS poll indicating sliding support for the approximately $800 billion plan before Congress.
The polls are a big part of the fight over the bill, but given the vast complexity of the shifting legislation, the data may offer little more than grist for the partisan mill.
Outside of Washington, few Americans are carefully engaged with what's been happening in Congress: A Pew poll shows most people are aware of Obama's push for the plan (69 percent said they've heard "a lot" about it), but fewer than four in 10 said they were tracking news about the bill "very closely."
(In a piece worth reading in full, Kaiser's Drew Altman and Mollyann Brodie point out that "[p]olicy-option polling pushes the limits of what polling can do, particularly if the policy options are complex.")
One relative constant in the face of variable polls about the stimulus is Obama's approval rating. Gallup's latest daily tracking number sits at 64 percent, which makes a direct contrast with perennially low congressional ratings a bit of a "gimme."
Closer to the White House's point, public views appear to be moving in Obama's direction: In the Gallup poll, 55 percent said they now have more confidence in the Obama administration's "ability to improve the economy."
But the CBS poll offered a nod the other way, reporting that most Americans prefer tax cuts over increased government spending. That's one reason Democrats have been so quick to try rebrand the spending as "investments." And at the end of the day, the fight over perceptions is in part about appearing to get along: Eighty-one percent in the CBS poll said the stimulus plan should "have the support of both parties."
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