Conventional wisdom suggests that public opinion has moved decisively- perhaps irrevocably - to the left, but recent polls actually express confusion and contradictions in the national mood.
Far from the “sea change,” “tectonic shift” and “political revolution” that heavy-breathing pundits impute to the glorious dawn of the Age of Obama, major surveys show a glaring contrast between personal admiration for the President and widespread skepticism about the effectiveness of his policies. For instance, a CNN/Opinion Research survey showed that a huge majority of Americans (67%) don’t expect the increased spending in the stimulus package and the budget to improve their financial positions. A Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll indicated only 24% believed the “economic recovery plan” would help their personal situation, while 19% expected it would “hurt” them and the majority (54%) thought that the new government initiatives (costing at least $15,000 per tax filer) would make no difference at all.
Turning from their own situations to the nation, there is still no majority that believes that Obama’s programs will produce their promised impact; only 49% agreed that “the recovery plan would help the economy.” By a big margin, Americans believe that the recent recovery legislation is “better described as a spending bill, rather than a stimulus bill” (52% to 31%).
Nevertheless, the public overwhelmingly approves of the job Barack Obama is doing as president (60% to 26%) and views him in highly favorable terms (68% to 25%). Nonetheless, many of the same folks who like the president and appreciate his leadership so far wish for “more Republicans in Congress to provide a check on Obama’s power.” (46%)
Looking deeply into any major poll, such contradictions turn up again and again. Big majorities say it is “the responsibility of the federal government” to “make sure all Americans have food,” “make sure all Americans have health care” and “provide housing to those who cannot afford it,” but in the same survey (Fox News/Opinion Dynamics again) three fourths of all respondents worry that “Americans are starting to rely too much on the government and not enough on themselves.”
Amazingly, 76% of independents and a startling 63% of Democrats agree that Americans “rely too much on government” – at the very same time that more than two-thirds of these same Democrats want government to start providing food, housing and health care.