WASHINGTON (CNN) – A new national poll suggests that most Americans favor an economic stimulus package even if it comes with an $800 billion price tag, but that support doesn't indicate that the public wants to see a new era of big government.
Fifty-six percent of those questioned in a CNN/Opinion Research Corp. survey released Tuesday said they favor the stimulus package that President-elect Barack Obama is proposing; 42 percent were opposed. Obama is pushing Congress to pass the plan soon after he's inaugurated on January 20, to help jump-start an economy mired in a deep recession.
The poll also indicates that two-thirds of the public thinks the stimulus package will do just that, with 17 percent saying it will help the economy a lot and another 50 percent feeling that it will help the economy somewhat. Twenty-one percent say the stimulus package won't help the economy very much and 10 percent say it won't help at all.
But Americans seem to be split on whether they'd like more government regulation of business and industry, with 39 percent saying there's too much government regulation and an equal amount saying too little. Twenty percent said the amount of government involvement is just right.
"Attitudes toward government have not changed since 2006, when the economy was still in pretty good shape," said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "Most still say the government is doing too much that should be left to individuals and businesses, and trust in government is still low."
On the other hand, he said, "with the economy in such poor shape, government action to stimulate the economy seems to get an exemption to the general concerns about big government."
There also appears to be a divide between the parties when it comes to government involvement.
"Six in 10 Democrats want to see the federal government do more," Holland said. "But three-quarters of Republicans would like to see a smaller government. The tiebreaker is independents. A majority of the independents polled say that government is doing too much that should be left to individuals and businesses."
The poll also suggests that a declining number of Americans trust the government to do what's right.
Twenty-two percent of those polled said they trust the government to do what's right most of the time. That's down 6 points from when the question was asked two years ago. Sixty-six percent said they trust the government some of the time, and 9 percent said they never trust Washington. On the opposite end of the spectrum, 3 percent said they can always trust the government to do the right thing.
The CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll was conducted Friday through Sunday, with 1,013 adult Americans questioned by telephone. The survey's sampling error is plus or minus 3 percentage points.