Making Sense of the Stimulus Polls
Public support for the Democrats’ stimulus bill seems to have been dropping, most strikingly in Rasmussen’s surveys. But public support for a stimulus remains high: People think Washington needs to act. And they look much more favorably on Obama’s handling of the stimulus than on congressional Republicans’ handling of it.
I suspect that congressional Republicans are faring poorly in the polls for two reasons. The first is that Republicans are just unpopular now, and most people are therefore going to disapprove of their handling of anything. The second is that the public sees Republicans as opposed not only to this stimulus but to any stimulus. The public does not see them as having an alternative. As has been widely noted, Obama has in recent days been trying to deepen this public impression. He knows what he’s doing.
It is easier to unify a minority party around opposition to the majority party’s proposals than around alternatives. But the resulting cacophony of alternatives makes it hard for the public to hear about any of them. I’m not sure how Republicans can solve this problem. But it seems to me, first, that they should not kid themselves that their attacks on the stimulus, or for that matter Obama’s nominee missteps, have brought his approval ratings down. As Karlyn Bowman of AEI puts it, it’s just “the normal force of gravity” that has brought Obama’s numbers slightly down since the Inaugural. Second, Republicans would probably be better off if they spent less time pointing out the Democratic plan’s flaws and more time talking up their favored economic fixes.