New Poll: Most Americans Want Government Help Even If It Means Increasing the Deficit

“Out of the Spotlight” Posting for April 15, 2011

The messages that routinely filter out of Washington, D.C. are not always what they seem. A new national poll released this week by the Ms. Foundation for Women makes that point loud and clear, most notably when it comes to the importance Americans place on reducing the deficit versus creating jobs and helping families in need.


The poll, conducted in March for the Ms. Foundation by Lake Research Partners, offers an interesting, counterintuitive perspective on how Americans view the economy and the need for spending cuts. It comes in the wake of President Obama’s speech this week on the deficit, which underscored the importance of maintaining programs that help those in need. We would not be a great country without those commitments,” he noted.


Here are a few highlights of the Ms. Foundation poll:


  • Sixty-two percent of Americans agree that the government should focus on creating jobs, even if it means increasing the deficit in the short-term. Overall agreement with this position has increased by six points since a similar 2010 poll


  • The poll shows strong concern that fiscal belt-tightening will come at the expense of families and children. Nearly half (49 percent) say they would be extremely or very concerned if Congress – in its efforts to reduce the federal budget deficit – significantly cut spending on government programs that help families and children. Another third (34 percent) would be somewhat concerned, and only one in six would not be concerned (16 percent). These concerns are particularly high among women, 55 percent of whom would be extremely or very concerned if spending for children and families was cut significantly


  • By a nearly 20-point margin, Americans see the need for a stronger role for government in helping the economy work better for the average American. Fifty-six percent of Americans agree that, “[i]t is time for government to take a larger and stronger role in making the economy work for the average American.” In contrast, only 36 percent choose the point of view that “[t]urning to big government to solve our economic problems will do more harm than good.” The desire for a stronger economic role for government has grown slightly – by four points – since 2010 even though the economy has improved over that time


  • The desire for a stronger economic role for government is particularly strong among women, 62 percent of whom support this view – a seven percent increase over 2010 – compared with 29 percent who support the idea that government does more harm than good


These findings fly in the face of what we’re hearing every day from political leaders in Congress about deficit reduction and the role of government. It’s clear that the reality facing most Americans is very different.


Posted by Amy


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