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Americans to Congress: Start From Scratch

Americans to Congress: Start From Scratch

PRINCETON, NJ -- A majority of Americans -- 57% -- want Congress to start from scratch in devising a plan to deal with the Wall Street financial crisis, rather than pass a bill akin to the $700 billion plan that was defeated on Monday.


More broadly, the latest USA Today/Gallup poll, conducted Sept. 30, finds most Americans in favor of Congress' taking some sort of legislative action to deal with the financial crisis. Only 14% think it should not pass any bill.

The poll finds little difference in attitudes on this question between Republicans and Democrats. Political independents are a bit more likely than either partisan group to say Congress should not pass any bill. But the majority of all three groups want to see Congress start over and come up with a new plan.


The perceived outlook for the U.S. economy if Congress fails to act is generally bleak. Roughly a third of Americans -- 34% -- believe the country would suffer a severe and lengthy recession in the absence of a financial rescue plan, while another 22% believe there would be a "depression." Thirty-one percent believe the country would suffer major problems, but not a severe recession, while 5% expect no major problems would result.


Democrats are more pessimistic about the economic future if no plan is passed than are either independents or Republicans. Republicans tend to be the most optimistic.


The members of Congress who voted against the original $700 billion rescue bill may enjoy some political benefit from their constituents come November. More Americans say they approve of those members than say they disapprove, by a 10-point margin, 47% to 37%. That's better than the mixed ratings seen for the Democratic leaders in Congress and the net negative ratings for the Republican leaders in Congress, both of whom pushed for passage of the plan.

At the same time, the most positive reviews go to Barack Obama, with 51% of Americans saying they approve of his handling of the financial rescue bill process. That's 9 points better than the 42% approving of John McCain.

As was seen in a USA Today/Gallup poll from late last week, President George W. Bush receives the worst ratings of all the major political players involved for his handling of the issue.


Bottom Line

Congress is representing the public's wishes this week by intervening legislatively in the Wall Street financial crisis. The vast majority of Americans want some sort of bill passed addressing it. However, by only tinkering around the edges of the original $700 billion plan that failed in the U.S. House of Representatives on Monday, the U.S. Senate -- now taking the lead on the bill -- may not be going far enough in satisfying Americans' desire for a completely different approach.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,021 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Sept. 30, 2008. 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. Polls conducted entirely in one day, such as this one, are subject to additional error or bias not found in polls conducted over several days.

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