Polls Show Mixed Reaction on Stimulus, Still Back Obama

By Fred Lucas | February 9, 2009 | 1:36 PM EST

President Barack Obama walks off Air Force One as he arrives at Michiana Regional Airport in South Bend, Ind., Monday Feb. 9, 2009. Obama will host at a town hall meeting in Elkhart, Ind. later Monday. (AP Photo/Joe Raymond)

(CNSNews.com) – As President Barack Obama pushes to sell the near $1 trillion economic stimulus package being debated in Congress – with a primetime press conference and stops in Indiana and Florida this week – public opinion appears mixed on the issue, according to most polls.
Though President Obama has kept an approval rating of 64 percent, differing polls show support for the stimulus package to be as low as 37 percent. Gallup polls have shown somewhat more favorable views on the plan than Rasmussen polls over the last week, but few respondents in either survey have supported the plan without changes.
A Rasmussen poll released Sunday found that 44 percent agree with the president’s comment that “an economy already in crisis will be faced with catastrophe” if Congress does not pass the $827 billion bill, while 41 percent do not think it will lead to a catastrophe.
Obama is giving his first prime time press conference in the East Room of the White House Monday, while the Senate is expected to pass the stimulus package with the support of three Republican moderates, Maine Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins and Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter. Obama is conducting town hall meetings on the package this week in Elkhart, Ind., and Fort Myers, Fla.
The House of Representatives already passed the package, although 11 Democrats and all of the House Republicans voted against the bill.
In Elkhart, Ind., 8,000 jobs were lost and unemployment tripled in the last year, according to the White House. Indiana is also one of the typically Republican states that Obama carried in the November election.
During the town hall meeting Monday, Obama talked about when he visited Elkhart during the campaign.
“I promised you back then that if elected president, I would do everything I could to help this community recover. And that’s why I’ve come back today – to tell you how I intend to keep that promise,” Obama said.    
He also stayed on local themes.
“That’s why, between the investments our plan makes – and the tax relief for small businesses it provides – we’ll create or save nearly 80,000 badly needed jobs for Indiana in the next two years,” Obama said. “But it’s not just the jobs that will benefit Indiana and the rest of America. It’s the work people will be doing: Rebuilding our roads, bridges, dams and levees. 
“Roads like US 31 here in Indiana that Hoosiers count on, and that connect small towns and rural communities to opportunities for economic growth. And I know that a new overpass downtown would make a big difference for businesses and families right here in Elkhart,” he added.
Half of the country, 50 percent, thinks the bill could do more harm than good, according to a Rasmussen poll from last Wednesday. That same day, the Rasmussen poll showed that support had dropped to 37 percent in favor of the package, while 43 percent opposed the bill. In mid-January, a plurality of 45 percent supported the plan, according to Rasmussen.
“The popularity of newly elected President Barack Obama combined with the willingness of most voters to give him the benefit of the doubt is a powerful political force working in favor of the economic rescue plan now being debated on Capitol Hill,” Scott Rasmussen said in an analysis.
“At the same time, even in the troubled economic times we face today, 48 percent of the nation’s voters say more government spending is generally bad for the economy,” Rasmussen said. “The nation’s deeply ingrained reluctance to embrace government spending is an equally powerful political force working against the rescue plan as Obama and congressional Democrats presently conceive it.”
A Gallup poll last week showed 38 percent supported the plan as is, while 37 percent thought they could support it with major changes. Only 17 percent outright opposed it.
A Gallup poll released Monday showed a bare majority, 51 percent, think a stimulus bill is “critically important.” Meanwhile, Gallup asserts that Obama has an upper hand at least from personality, as 67 percent approve of the way he is handling the effort to pass a stimulus bill; 48 percent support the way congressional Democrats are handling the matter; and 31 percent support how Republicans in Congress are handling the matter.