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Voters Evenly Divided Over Obama's Warning of Economic Catastrophe

February 8, 2009
Rasmussen Reports
President Obama last Thursday night stated his belief in the need for urgent action on the economic recovery bill working its way through Congress. "If we do not move swiftly ... an economy that is already in crisis will be faced with catastrophe," he declared. Obama repeated that sentiment in his nationwide radio address on Saturday.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 44% of Americans agree with Obama and 41% do not.

There is a huge partisan divide on the question. Sixty-nine percent (69%) of Democrats agree with the president's insistence that failure to pass a bill now means catastrophe, while 64% of Republicans do not. Among voters not affiliated with either major party, 32% say Obama's right, but 51% don't agree (see crosstabs).

A plurality of women agree with the president while a plurality of men disagree. Those who earn less than $40,000 a year lean in Obama's direction while those who earn $60,000 to $100,000 lean the other way. By a 47% to 40% margin, investors reject the notion that inaction will lead to catastrophe.

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The partisan nature of the debate has pushed Obama's ratings down a bit in the Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Approval Index. But overall, Obama still gets good grades for his performance. Support for the stimulus plan itself also has decreased over the past two weeks, and 50% of the nation's voters fear it could do more harm than good.

Consumer and investor confidence continues to hover just above record low levels. Americans overwhelmingly believe the nation's economy is getting worse, and most say the same about their own personal finances.

On the campaign trail last fall, Obama addressed the brewing economic crisis by promising tax cuts for 95% of Americans. Voters continue to believe that approach is good for the economy, and the tax-cutting aspects of the rescue plan remain more popular than the call for increased government spending.

In his remarks last Thursday night, Obama expressed surprise that Republicans were attacking the stimulus plan for having too much spending. He said of the stimulus plan: "It's spending. That's the whole point."

On this point, however, voters are also evenly divided. Forty-three percent (43%) agree with Obama, and 43% disagree. Once again, the partisan divide is clear. Sixty-five percent (65%) of Democrats share the president's point of view, and 65% of Republicans do not. Among unaffiliated voters, 36% favor more spending, and 54% do not.

Obama is planning a prime-time televised news conference on Monday night and then a campaign-style swing to targeted states next week. The White House bully pulpit is often able to shift public opinion at least on a temporary basis, so the number who agree with the president could increase.

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See survey questions and toplines. Crosstabs are available to Premium Members only.

Rasmussen Reports is an electronic publishing firm specializing in the collection, publication, and distribution of public opinion polling information.

The Rasmussen Reports ElectionEdgeTM Premium Service for Election 2008 offers the most comprehensive public opinion coverage ever provided for a Presidential election.

Scott Rasmussen, president of Rasmussen Reports, has been an independent pollster for more than a decade.

This national telephone survey of 1,000 Likely Voters was conducted by Rasmussen Reports February 6-7, 2009. The margin of sampling error for the surveys is +/- 3 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence.

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