PRINCETON, NJ -- President Barack Obama signed the new $787 billion stimulus bill into law today in Denver with the general support of a majority of the American public, albeit a public sharply divided along party lines -- just as was the case in Congress where the bill was deliberated and voted on over the last several weeks. The bill becomes law at a time when almost 8 in 10 Americans believe the U.S. economy is getting worse, and fewer than 1 in 10 say it's a good time to find a quality job.
Gallup's Feb. 11 update on the public's view of the stimulus bill showed 59% in favor of "a new stimulus package of at least $800 billion". This demonstrates a marginal increase in the level of support found in an earlier February poll, as well as one in late January (52% in both cases). Opposition over the last month has been running between 37% in late January to 33% in Feb. 10 polling.
Polling from Feb. 4 shows support for a stimulus bill described as "reduced by up to $200 billion" received increased support from those who do not approve of the initial bill, described as "at least $800 billion". In fact, the final bill, which passed in both houses of Congress and was signed into law by Obama today, came in slightly below the $800 billion figure used in Gallup's survey question. It is not clear if the small reduction in cost of the final bill to $785 billion would change the level of public support from what Gallup measured when the bill was described as "at least $800 billion".
It has been well documented that public support for a stimulus bill is highly partisan, echoing what occurred in Congress. In Gallup's Feb. 11 update, 82% of Democrats supported the bill compared to just 28% of Republicans.
The final bill includes a long list of ways in which the government money is to be spent in the months and years to come. Gallup's recent polling of a short list of things that could be included in the bill showed public support was highest for money to be spent on education (the final bill includes up to $100 billion for education) and for tax cuts for individuals and families. Americans considered the least important aspects of the bill to be money for state and local governments and tax cuts for businesses.
The bill becomes law at a time when Gallup's measures of the public's opinions on the economy and their financial situations are at or near the lowest seen since Gallup began tracking these indicators:
79% of Americans say the U.S. economy is getting worse
Only 10% rate the current U.S. economy as excellent or good
Just 9% say now is a good time to find a quality job, the lowest in Gallup's history of asking this question since 2001
By a six percentage point margin, employed Americans are more likely to say that their companies are letting people go and reducing the size of their work force, rather than hiring employees and expanding their work force
The economy is overwhelmingly seen as the most important problem facing the nation
A review of Gallup polling suggests a majority of Americans supported President Obama when he signed the massive economic stimulus bill into law today, but this support is far from universal. About a third of Americans, mostly Republicans, oppose the bill. Americans believe that some aspects of the spending bill -- including education and tax cuts -- are very important, but are much less likely to believe that other items, such as money for state and local governments, are important.
The bill was signed into law at a time when Americans are reporting extremely negative views of the economy and the job market, and it is clear that this bill is expected to address what is overwhelmingly considered by the public to be the number one problem facing the country.