As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Still Haven't Turned The Corner On Liberal Economic Goals

I really don't comment on polling much because I think political types make way too much out of it and how a selected sample of citizens feel about a particular subject has no material effect on anyone's life, and I wish those in American politics kept that in mind. That said, I would like to highlight the tension I see in the latest CBS/NYT poll on President Obama and the nation.

Obama's personal approval ratings are high and there is a general sense that the economy is coming back, and thus the positive descriptions of the poll are accurate. And the 31% approval rating for Republicans is "the lowest in the 25 years the question has been asked in New York Times/CBS News polls."

But dig deeper and you see a real disconnect. While Obama has provided a psychological boost to the nation that I don't want to fully discount, his policies, and the policies of liberal economics generally, are not fully accepted.

Even as Americans strongly support Mr. Obama, they do not necessarily support all of his initiatives. For example, 58 percent disapprove of his proposal to bail out banks. But the percentage of respondents who said they thought it would benefit all Americans, rather than only bankers, jumped from 29 percent in February to 47 percent now, signaling that the White House might be making progress in changing perceptions of the plan.

And as Mr. Obama has proposed a vast expansion in spending and programs, 48 percent of Americans said they preferred a smaller government providing fewer services, while 41 percent preferred a bigger government with more services.

Americans remain concerned about the growing national debt being passed on to future generations, but in the face of the current economic troubles, they are divided over whether it is necessary to increase debt. Forty-six percent said the government should not incur further debt, but 45 percent said the government should spend money to stimulate the economy even though it would increase the budget deficit.

The story skipped over the poll result that 60% of respondents think that trade restrictions are necessary to protect domestic industries. And respondents think the government is treating financial institutions better than the automakers by a score of 34%-6%, with the rest undecided.

Some of these reflect the way Obama and his team are doing business. But others are really core Democratic ideas about the economy, and despite a Democratic trifecta and a completely marginalized and outright hated Republican party, they are not getting traction. The pluralities on smaller government and debt reduction are extremely worrying, because if that drives the policy we will have even more trouble getting out of this economic mess. Not surprisingly, these are the kinds of topics on which the media wastes an endless amount of breath, frequently giving lots of space to the conservative side of the equation.

Progress can be measured with popularity but it SHOULD be measured with tangible policy, and this suggests the movement on that is slow indeed.

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