GOP Pollster Says Tax/Spending Debate Has Radically Shifted

by: David Sirota

Mon Jan 26, 2009 at 12:00

Writing in the Los Angeles Times, Republican pollster Frank Luntz effectively admits that thanks to progressive pressure, the economic meltdown, and the disgusting spectacle known as the Wall Street bailout, public opinion on taxes/spending have radically shifted towards progressive goals, moving the real center of public opinion even farther to the left from the faux "center" in Washington, D.C.:

Last month, I conducted a national survey of 800 registered voters on their attitudes toward infrastructure investment...The survey's findings were unlike any other issue I have polled in more than a decade...A near unanimous 94% of Americans are concerned about our nation's infrastructure. And this concern cuts across all regions of the country and across urban, suburban and rural communities. Fully 84% of the public wants more money spent by the federal government -- and 83% wants more spent by state governments -- to improve America's infrastructure. And here's the kicker: 81% of Americans are personally prepared to pay 1% more in taxes for the cause.

This isn't "soft" support for infrastructure either. It stretches from Maine to Montana, from California to Connecticut. Democrats (87%) and Republicans (74%) are prepared to, in Barack Obama's words, put skin in the game, which tells you just how wide and deep the support is...

The context of the poll is clear: Americans have a serious case of bailout fatigue. They've seen government pony up to Wall Street and Motor City. Yet the stock market continues to fall, jobs continue to disappear and the spending just plain continues. Top executives received their Christmas bonuses, and the rest of America was left asking, "Where's my bailout check?"

Thus, as we push for a bigger stimulus package with more spending and less tax cuts, and as we try to stop Obama and Congress from cutting more blank checks to Wall Street, we should know that even top Republican pollsters see that ou efforts are supported by the vast majority of the American people. In other words, we the progressive movement are representing the real center of American public opinion - and it's our job to now force Washington to represent that real center, too.

UPDATE: Paul correctly notes that the transpartisan support for more spending is not a new trend, as evidenced by General Social Survey data. I should have remembered this - I wrote a newspaper column about Paul's findings a year ago.

David Sirota :: GOP Pollster Says Tax/Spending Debate Has Radically Shifted

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speaking of blank checks to Wall Street... (0.00 / 0)
Citi is moving ahead with plans to shell out $50 mil of bailout cash for a luxury corporate jet (h/t huffpo).

I don't think this is what Congress had in mind for a "shovel-ready" project - and the jet is made by a French company of all things...

"I think the economic logic behind dumping a load of toxic waste in the lowest wage country is impeccable and we should face up to that."
-Lawrence Summers

Corporate jet, eh? (0.00 / 0)
Good thing Citi doesn't employ blue collar workers... They'd get raked over the coals for that...  but, since they don't, it's all good with congress!  Buy more jets!  It stimulates the economy!

REID: Voting against us was never part of our arrangement!
SPECTER: I am altering the deal! Pray I don't alter it any further!
REID: This deal keeps getting worse all the time!

[ Parent ]
Excellent post, David. (0.00 / 0)
People see that Republican economics failed.  When the Republicans like Boehner push more tax cuts, they just increase Obama's support.  

New And Not New (0.00 / 0)
While it's no doubt true that the intensity of these views is new, the foundations of them are not.

I have repeatedly referred to spending data from the General Social Survey, which has polled the American people semi-regularly (annually or biannually) since 1972 on an expanding list of spending priorities, using a standardized format that points out the difficulty of solving problems, as well as the trade-offs involved.

Since 1972, the aggregate results are:

    38.6% say we're spending "Too Little" on highways and bridges.
    51.9% say we're spending "About Right"
    9.5% say we're spending "Too Much"

What's more, there is very little difference between liberals, moderates and conservatives. The biggest difference is between liberals and moderates saying "too little": 37.0% among liberals, 39.8% among moderates.  All other differences are under 2%, and some as close as 0.1%.

The overall numbers for mass transit are almost as overwhelming:

    36.3% "Too Little"
    53.0% "About Right"
    10.7% "Too Much"

There is more of an ideological difference on this.

"Too Little":

    42.8% liberals
    32.6% Moderates
    35.3% Conservatives

"About Right":

    49.3% liberals
    57.3% Moderates
    51.2% Conservatives

"Too Much":

    7.9% liberals
    10.1% Moderates
    13.5% Conservatives

Still, the bedrock support for more infrastructure spending is clear, and longstanding.  What we're seeing here, while dramatic, builds on a long history of basic public support.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

While the polls may be showing support (0.00 / 0)
for infrastructure investment on the one hand, let's not forget the other hand:

The public acknowledges the need for action, according to Hart's national poll of 801 voters, but the $700 billion financial rescue bill last fall also made them wary of a repeat.

In terms of simple word choice, more voters responded favorably to "economic recovery" than "economic stimulus." The percentage of voters who favor expanding public investments that create jobs - even if that means increasing the budget deficit - grew from 48 percent in June 2008 to 64 percent in December 2008.

Regarding the massive pricetag, only 18 percent of voters said they wanted "a plan that spends $800 billion." But when the bill was described as "a plan large and bold enough to deal with the crisis," 35 percent of voters approved.

Now this poll is, I gather, a bit dated (it's from mid December, it seems), but I find the numbers here both rather surprising and pretty daunting. Even after describing a $800B plan as "large and bold enough to deal with the crisis", the public is only 35% behind it??

Now what I suspect is that Obama has chosen his plan, including particularly its size, to suit his polling. (Such a surprise that would be!).

But the hitch is obvious. The economy doesn't care about pleasing voters -- it will do what it will do, and can be remedied only as it can be remedied, based on its own often contrary nature. If $800B doesn't hack it, it doesn't hack it -- polling be damned.

The fate, and perhaps irony, of Obama's Presidency may be that he will have risen to power based on a crisis that demands boldness of action, but will lose that power because he failed to be bold.  


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