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Six in 10 oppose auto bailout, poll shows

  • Story Highlights
  • CNN/Opinion Research Corp. Poll released Wednesday
  • Poll finds that 36 percent of those sampled favor an auto bailout
  • In early November, polls indicated large support for the auto makers
  • Next Article in Politics »
From Paul Steinhauser
CNN Deputy Political Director
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A national poll suggests that six in 10 Americans oppose using taxpayer money to help the ailing major U.S. auto companies.

Sixty-one percent of those questioned in a CNN/Opinion Research Corp. survey out Wednesday are dead set against the federal government providing billions of dollars in assistance for the automakers, with 36 percent favoring such a bailout.

The poll, conducted Monday and Tuesday, also indicates that a majority of Americans, 53 percent, don't think government assistance for the automakers will help the U.S. economy.

"Only 15 percent say that they would be immediately affected if the auto companies went bankrupt," CNN Polling Director Keating Holland said. "Seven in 10 say that a bailout would be unfair to American taxpayers."

In early November, polls indicated that nearly half the public supported federal assistance to the big automakers when this issue first came before Congress. Video Watch: CNN's Ali Velshi discusses the auto bailout »

But evidence in surveys from other organizations suggests that the poor performance by executives from GM, Ford and Chrysler at congressional hearings, and the admission that they had taken private jets to get there, resulted in a steep drop in support for government assistance to automakers.

The new CNN poll indicates that those wounds have yet to heal as the executives return to Capitol Hill for more hearings this week.

"This indicates that the upcoming do-over that the auto executives will get in another round of congressional hearings may be crucial to swaying the public and getting the assistance package passed through Congress," Holland said.

The companies presented plans to Congress Tuesday for how they would use federal loans to return to profitability. The Big Three CEOs and UAW President Ron Gettelfinger are to appear at Senate and House hearings Thursday and Friday seeking support for the loan package.

But aides to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he doesn't think he has enough votes to tap the $700 billion federal bailout fund to prop up the foundering Big Three.

Opposition to the bailout of the auto industry is widespread across the country, even the Midwest, where the domestic automakers have their headquarters and many of their assembly plants.

The poll indicates that most opposition to the bailout comes from the West, where opposition reaches 67 percent. Sixty-one percent of those polled in the Northeast, 64 percent in the South and 53 percent in the Midwest oppose using federal dollars to help the automakers.

The poll also suggests that a vast majority of Republicans, 70 percent, oppose the bailout, with 62 percent of independents and 55 percent of Democrats also opposed. iReport.com: Share your questions for auto CEOs

The auto companies say that if they don't receive government assistance, they could go into bankruptcy. If that happens, only 15 percent of those polled think they would be immediately affected, with another 19 percent saying they would feel the impact within a year or so.

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Forty-three percent say they would eventually feel an effect from such a bankruptcy, and 24 percent say they will never feel the impact.

The CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll was conducted by phone, with 1,096 adult Americans questioned. The survey's sampling error is plus or minus 3 percentage points.

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