A Nation of Deficit Hawks Or Hypocrites?

By Conor Clarke

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Well that was fast. Two big polls came out last night and this morning -- here's the CBS/NYT poll and here's the NBC/WSJ poll -- to find that the administration's agenda is starting its trip down the tubes. "Obama Poll Sees Doubt on Budget and Health Care," headlines the Times. "Public Wary of Deficit, Economic Intervention," headlines the Journal.

Right, so there is a lot of interesting stuff in the polls. (The Journal poll, in particular, finds that the auto crisis has made American more likely to purchase American cars. Or so they say.) But I find the results on the deficit genuinely confusing.

The Journal poll has a solid majority (58%) agreeing that "The President and the Congress should worry more about keeping the budget deficit down, even though it may mean it will take longer for the economy to recover." The Times poll has a majority (52%) siding with the view that the "federal government should NOT spend money to stimulate the national economy and should instead focus on reducing the budget deficit." And YES, all caps in the original.

I find this odd because Americans overwhelming supported the recent effort to ... spent a humongous pile of money stimulating the economy. You can find a rundown of 11 polls on this here. In every poll -- every single poll -- a big plurality of Americans supports the stimulus, and in nine of the polls a majority of the public supports it. Sometimes as much as 70% of the public supports it.

I know public opinion is complicated and preferences can work on many levels and so forth, but I would have thought it would take at least six months to do a complete somersault on this.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2009/06/a-nation-of-deficit-hawks-or-hypocrites/19684/