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Polls show support for stimulus has slipped

  • Story Highlights
  • Polls show more than 50 percent of respondents favor a stimulus plan
  • USA Today/Gallup poll indicates a desire for a smaller bill
  • Of those polled by CBS News, 62 percent approve of Obama
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By Paul Steinhauser
CNN Deputy Political Director
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Two new national polls suggest that support for an $800 billion stimulus plan to pump up the economy has slipped since mid-January, but may have stabilized in the past week.

Eighty-one percent told CBS interviewers they think Obama is generally reaching out to Republicans to support the stimulus bill.

Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Oklahoma, works with his aides on the economic stimulus package. Polls show support for the bill is slipping.

Fifty-one percent of those questioned in a CBS News poll released Thursday evening approved of the stimulus package. That's down 12 points from a poll taken January 11-15, the last time CBS asked the question. Thirty-nine percent opposed the plan, up 15 points from the previous poll, taken before President Barack Obama was inaugurated and before the House of Representatives passed an $819 billion stimulus package, with no Republican support, on January 28.

A new USA Today/Gallup poll, also released on Thursday, shows virtually identical numbers to the CBS News poll -- 52 percent favoring an economic stimulus plan and 38 percent in opposition. Fifty-two percent also favored an economic stimulus plan in a Gallup poll conducted on January 27, a week after the inauguration and the day before the House passed the bill that the Senate is currently considering.

"These two polls, taken together, indicate that support for a hypothetical stimulus package dropped once an actual piece of legislation was introduced and debated in the House," said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "Opinion about the specific bill that is now before the Senate has remained consistent since the details of the House bill were made public. A slight majority favor the current package, with just under four in 10 opposing the bill."

The public often changes its mind about proposals made by a president or by Congress once the details are known, Holland added. "It's easy to express support for a bill when the goal is clearly stated but the details are not well known. Traditionally, the bigger the bill, the more there is in it that will eventually turn some voters off."

And the USA Today/Gallup poll seems to indicate a desire for a smaller bill. Forty-eight percent favored Congress cutting the size of the bill by up to $200 billion, with 41 percent opposing such a move. Video See what Americans think of the stimulus ».

Nearly half of those questioned in the CBS News poll, 45 percent, said the stimulus plan would shorten the recession, with 21 percent suggesting that the bill would significantly shorten the tough economic times. Eighteen percent indicated that the plan would do little to bring an earlier end to the recession.

In the CBS News poll, eight out of 10 believe the economic recovery bill should be a bipartisan effort, with only 13 percent saying it would be all right for the legislation to pass with support only from the Democrats who control Congress. Eighty-one percent told CBS interviewers that they think Obama is generally reaching out to congressional Republicans in an attempt at bipartisanship. But only four in 10 think that congressional Republicans are returning the favor, compared with 49 percent who believe that congressional Democrats are attempting to be bipartisan.

The CBS News poll suggests that Americans may be agreeing with Republican arguments on the stimulus when it comes to a choice between tax cuts or increased government spending. Fifty-nine percent of those questioned say tax cuts for business are the best way to end the recession, with 22 percent feeling that more government spending is the way to go.

Sixty-two percent of those polled by CBS News approve of the way Obama is handling his duties. Obama's approval rating is 65 percent in the latest Gallup poll, and has been in the mid- to high 60s in the Gallup tracking poll for every day of his presidency.

"In the weeks leading up to the inauguration, Obama's approval was roughly 80 percent in virtually every poll," Holland said. "But the job of a president-elect is different than the job of president. It's not surprisingly that Obama's ratings were higher during the transition than they are now, and the real test of his presidency is how the public feels about him since January 20."

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Obama's approval rating is more than twice the 26 percent of those who approve of the way Congress is handling its job, according to the CBS News poll. But when broken down by party, congressional Democrats have an edge over their Republican counterparts. Forty-eight percent of those polled expressed a favorable view of Democrats in Congress, 16 points higher those who had a positive opinion of congressional Republicans.

The CBS News poll was conducted Monday through Wednesday, with 864 adults questioned by telephone. The USA Today/Gallup poll was conducted Wednesday, with 1,012 adults questioned by telephone. Sampling error for both surveys is plus or minus 3 percentage points.

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