POLLING THE STIMULUS.

Just got off a conference call with Democratic pollsters Stan Greenberg and Geoff Garin, who were speaking about public opinion polling on the economic stimulus legislation. They argue that public support for the bill remains strong, and that does seem to be the case. This CBS poll and this Gallup poll both put a bare majority of the country in favor of the current legislative package, and Gallup reports that a smaller package gets less support.

The CBS poll looks at some bipartisan optics: 81 percent of Americans want the legislation to be bi-partisan, and this result is even more interesting: that same percentage think President Obama is "trying for bipartisanship," 49 percent think that congressional Democrats are doing the same, but only 41 percent think that congressional Republicans are reaching across the aisle. Approval ratings are similar: Sky-high for the Prez, at 62 percent, decent for congressional Dems at 48 approval, 43 disapproval, and absolutely horrendous for congressional Republicans, 32 percent favorable and 60 percent unfavorable. And an overwhelming majority of Americans -- 84 percent -- think the bill is either moving at the right pace or not fast enough.

It's not all bad news for the GOP, though, as the report notes only 22 percent of people support spending to get out of the recession, and 59 percent think more tax cuts for business would do it -- not for nothing, I suppose, does the package contain both options. But expectations are not exactly high: 45 percent of people polled believe that the legislation will not shorten the recession, 21 percent think it will shorten it significantly and 18 percent think it will shorten it a little. That last result doesn't surprise me: After the last eight years, Americans have learned to be very skeptical of the government, despite the faith they found to elect Obama. That's also why this is such an opportunity for the president: exceeding public expectations would score a solid victory.

Garin noted that the polling language, about stimulus, differs from the rhetoric used by the bill's proponents to sell the bill, suggesting that ground could be gained on the public opinion front:

The more this as described to the public as a jobs and recovery bill, support for it is much stronger. Any question that focuses on a bill that is about jobs and recovery, that language trumps any concerns that are raised about it, including wasteful spending… and increasing the deficit.

Americans want exactly what it is that President Obama has proposed and what the Democrats are working to pass, something that will show a real long term commitment to reinvesting in the country. People fully understand that we are not facing a short-term problem. People say on average two to three years to turn this thing around.

So that's your snapshot of where we stand, going into a very interesting weekend of senate negotiations.

Weird polling note of the day: According to Gallup, 27 percent of respondents would favor both larger and smaller stimulus plans. Anything goes for some folks ...

-- Tim Fernholz

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