New poll shows risks to opponents of Obama's economic stimulus plan

Robert Frazier/The Christian Science Monitor
By the numbers: Democratic pollster and political strategist Stanley Greenberg says latest polling shows strong support for President Obama and his economic stimulus plan.

When economic stimulus legislation supported by President Obama moves to the Senate next week, opponents of the plan face political risks, according to new polling data.

At a Friday breakfast with reporters hosted by the Monitor, Democratic pollster Stanley Greenberg released poll results showing :

• Among all voters nationally, 62 percent favor Obama’s economic recovery plan while 28 percent oppose it.

• Obama’s economic plan is popular in the 13 states that are expected to have competitive races for US Senate seats in 2010. Voters in those states favor the plan by 64 to 26 percent.

• There is strong support for the plan among voters in the 40 Congressional districts where Democrats are expected to have the toughest time holding seats in 2010. In those Republican leaning battleground districts, voters favor the plan by a margin of 64 to 27.

When the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act came to a vote in the House on Wednesday, not a single Republican supported it. “I think the message of having zero Republicans voting for the plan was an immense error,” Greenberg said. “I think it will be seared in peoples’ consciousness.” At another point, he called it a “defining vote.”

Support for Obama’s economic policies occurs in the context of strong overall approval ratings for the new president. In the 40 Congressional districts Democrats expect to have the toughest time holding in 2010, some 70 percent of voters say they support Obama’s policies and goals versus 22 percent who oppose them. Greenberg called the level of support “intense.”

Still, support for the Obama administration’s economic plans is not a given even among some Democrats. The Washington Post on Friday reported on “bailout fatigue” among conservative Democrats in the Senate who are questioning some spending in the plan.

“I think fatigue is possible,” Greenberg said. But he did not expect it to play a major role in the fate of the current legislation. “Let’s remember, this is not tax increases, it is tax cuts and real spending,” he said.

Maintaining support for further aid to troubled banks under the TARP (Troubled Asset Relief Program) may be another matter, Greenberg said. “The real money is there and I think that is the challenge -- keeping people with you when you get to that which involves real money [and it is] harder to explain the benefits.”

Although Obama currently has strong voter support, the public is open to the possibility he will not succeed in reviving the economy. Poll respondents “think it is possible that this good man may fail, that this place is such a mess, that entrenched interests are so great, the old way of doing politics is so strong, they are not sure he is not overwhelmed by it,” Greenberg said.

Greenberg referred to data from two separate polls conducted for Democracy Corps, a Democratic advocacy organization he founded along with political analyst James Carville. 1,200 likely voters in the 40 least secure Democratic congressional districts were contacted January 14-19. The snapshot of national voter opinion came from a poll of 1,000 likely voters conducted January 26-29.

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