As lawmakers debate the extent and nature of a financial aid package to the big three U.S. automakers, Americans seem skeptical and generally negative toward the whole process, according to the latest FOX News poll.
Nearly six in ten Americans (58 percent) disapprove of the federal government giving U.S. automakers billions of dollars in loan money and 37 percent approve. Majority opposition is consistent across party lines as 52 percent of Democrats, 64 percent of Republicans, and 58 percent of independents disapprove of the idea.
Those living in union households are slightly more inclined than Americans in general to approve of loaning money to the automakers: 44 percent approve and 52 percent disapprove.
Moreover, Americans are split on whether the loan money would ever be paid back to the government: 48 percent think it is likely automakers would pay it back and 50 percent disagree.
The national telephone poll was conducted for FOX News by Opinion Dynamics Corp. among 900 registered voters from December 9 to December 10, 2008. The poll has a 3-point error margin.
This pervasive sense of cynicism seems to be generated by a distrust of car company management -- perhaps fueled by the controversial "private jet" and then "hybrid" car travels to Congress. A solid plurality (43 percent) lays the blame for the auto company crisis squarely at the feet of management executives, while about one in seven Americans (15 percent) blames labor unions. Overall bad economic conditions are cited by 13 percent as the main reason behind car industry woes and 4 percent blame government regulations.
Republicans (24 percent) are four times more likely than Democrats (6 percent) to blame labor unions; while Democrats (19 percent) are nearly three times more likely than Republicans (7 percent) to blame bad economic conditions.
And while a sizable majority (67 percent) feels the economy would be hurt "a great deal" by U.S. carmakers going out of business, only about one in five (21 percent) is "extremely concerned" with the prospect of auto company bankruptcies.
Some 15 percent of Americans think they personally would be hurt "a great deal" if U.S. car-makers went belly-up.
Almost as many Americans think the auto companies would survive on their own without government money (31 percent) as think they would survive only if they get government cash (36 percent). One-quarter (25 percent) think they will fail even with public largesse.
How do American-made cars stack up against their foreign competition? Most Americans think the quality of U.S. cars is either "worse" (40 percent) or "the same" (36 percent) as foreign cars -- with one in five (20 percent) believing American cars are "better."
A solid 59 percent majority of Americans says they would not buy a car from a bankrupt auto company -- about the same percentage of their friends they think would not do so (55 percent).
Ernie Paicopolos is a Principal at Opinion Dynamics Corporation.