The Blog

Do Americans Support the Auto Bailout?

9:30 AM, Dec 22, 2008 • By GARY ANDRES
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

President Bush approved a short-term bridge loan to Detroit on Friday averting a pre-New Year's bankruptcy for one or more of the auto companies. But the White House action also kicked the can to the Obama administration to figure out a longer-term solution.

Many national polling organizations have measured public opinion on the bailout over the past several weeks. The results are decidedly mixed and in some cases contradictory when comparing different polls. But as always, question wording matters a great deal. Mark Blumenthal at Pollster.com reviews a host of recent surveys about the auto bailout and shows how the results change based on how the question is asked.

Depending on the question, opposition varies from 42% to 61%; support varies 28% to 57%. As is often the case, about a third of Americans appears to float between support and opposition depending on the way pollsters ask the question. They are more likely to oppose the bailout when the question emphasizes the "billions" of dollars involved. They are more likely to support it when the question gives greater emphasis to the imminence of the companies going into bankruptcy or "out of business" in the absence of the bailout. In one case, support is greater when the pollster (NBC/Wall Street Journal) specifies the changes that Congress will require the companies to make in exchange for the money:

Read Blumenthal's full post here.

Breaking down the numbers by partisan identification raises some red flags for the Obama Administration. The same polls also reinforce congressional Republican anger toward the Bush White House for supporting the automakers' request for a bridge loan, as expressed in this piece by Martin Kady at Politico.

About 50 percent of independents and 50 percent of Republicans oppose the bailout, according to data compiled by political scientist Charles Franklin. Franklin writes:

At the moment, the pro-bailout position is a minority view. Either the new president will have to persuade those Independents to change their minds, or he will find he faces an early challenge to his ability to govern from a majority position. Little will erode his strong current public support faster than pushing for policies that face majority opposition. In this case, his tepid support for the auto-industry now may have missed the opportunity to convert Independents before their opposition has hardened. Or perhaps GM and Chrysler will file for Chapter 11 and spare him the task.

Read Franklin's full post here.