Just over half of Americans — 51 percent — support the economic stimulus and spending plan passed by Congress last week and 40 percent oppose it.
Moreover, 58 percent think legislation was necessary — that's 24 percentage points higher than the 34 percent who think the economy would have improved on its own without government intervention. Among those who think legislation was necessary, 23 percent oppose the plan that passed Congress.
Support for the bill breaks down along party lines, as 79 percent of Democrats support it and 70 percent of Republicans oppose it. Among independents, 45 percent support and 42 percent oppose.
For those supporting the stimulus bill, the top reason is because it was seen as the best option and we "have to do something" (37 percent). Other main reasons include the spending included in the bill (17 percent), belief in Barack Obama and the Democrats (14 percent), and simple belief the plan will work (11 percent).
Too much pork — that's what opponents say is the primary reason they dislike the plan. A third of opponents (32 percent) say pork is the problem, while others site the cost and amount of spending in the bill (21 percent). Some 17 percent oppose it because they don't think it will work, while another 9 percent because it is not the government's role and 3 percent because there are not enough tax cuts.
A 52 percent majority says the legislation that passed last week is better described as a "spending bill" than a "stimulus bill" (31 percent). Among those opposed to the legislation, almost all describe it as a “spending bill” (87 percent).
"While most agree the swift passage of the economic stimulus package is a victory for President Obama, Republican opponents of the plan scored in the communications battle by successfully branding the legislation as more spending than stimulus," says Chris Anderson, Opinion Dynamics vice president. "Of course the future health of the economy will provide the ultimate verdict on who was right about this historic piece of legislation."
Twice as many voters think President Obama sincerely tried to reach out to Republicans to make the stimulus plan bipartisan (66 percent) as think Republicans sincerely tried to help the president and be bipartisan (33 percent).
Another word about pork — or specifically "porky amendments" as New York Sen. Chuck Schumer called them when he said recently Americans "really don't care" if the stimulus bill included earmarks and pork spending. The poll finds Americans disagree with Schumer, as a large 79 percent majority says they do care, including most Democrats (76 percent), Republicans (84 percent) and independents (78 percent).
Opinion Dynamics Corp. conducted the national telephone poll of 900 registered voters for FOX News from February 17 to February 18. The poll has a 3-point error margin.
On the Goldilocks scale, nearly half of Americans (46 percent) think the stimulus plan is too large and 14 percent say it is too small, while about a third (30 percent) thinks it is about the right size. Among those who support the plan, 20 percent think it is too large, 20 percent say too small and 50 percent about right.
The big question though is will the plan work? Views are mixed — about half (49 percent) say it will help the nation's economy, while the other half think the plan will either hurt the economy (25 percent) or not make much of a difference (23 percent).
Even so, by 61 percent to 31 percent more Americans think a year from now the economy will be recovering rather than deeper in recession.
When asked about their personal financial situation, a 54 percent majority says the stimulus plan will not make much of a difference. Twenty-four percent say it will help them personally and 19 percent say it will hurt.
Not many people — 22 percent — view Obama's description of the nation's economic situation and use of words like "crisis" and "catastrophe" as intentional overstatements. Most (70 percent) think he was accurately describing the situation as he sees it.
That's not surprising as fully 79 percent of Americans say they have tried to reduce their household spending because of concern about the economy.
There are places where people refuse to cut back. The top non-essential items people say they will spend money on during these tough economic times are Internet access (21 percent) and entertainment items such as cable television and movies (21 percent), followed closely by the ubiquitous cell phone (17 percent). Other popular non-essentials that people still consider as must haves include eating out at restaurants (10 percent), vacations (7 percent), cigarettes (4 percent) and alcohol (3 percent).
Most people agree — 88 percent — it is the responsibility of the federal government to help rebuild communities affected by natural disasters. In addition, sizable majorities think it is the government's job to make sure all Americans have food (68 percent) and health care (66 percent). On the flip side, a 67 percent majority says it is not the fed's responsibility to rescue failing financial institutions.
After that, views become more evenly divided. Is it the government's job to provide housing to people who can't afford it? Fifty-two percent say yes and 45 percent no. Similarly, 51 percent think the government should make sure all Americans who want a job have a job, while 47 percent disagree.
Even with all of this support for government taking responsibility, there is a decided consensus that people are starting to shirk their personal responsibilities. Some 76 percent of the public thinks "Americans are starting to rely too much on the government and not enough on themselves." Furthermore, 54 percent of Americans say they do not trust the federal government.
Most people say if they were to fall on hard times they would most likely turn to their family for help (66 percent). That's followed by government programs (10 percent), religious communities (8 percent) and friends (3 percent).