Back in September 2009, opponents of Obama's first stimulus declared that it didn't work. They said that it was, thus far, ineffective and backed up their claims with some data. But I argued that whatever data they might supply can't possibly provide the whole story: we can't fully understand what the world would have looked like without the stimulus package.
In particular, we cannot know for sure how Americans would have felt if the government had merely done nothing. Rewind to early 2009. The economy's sores from the financial crisis were still open and bleeding. Unemployment was rising quickly. Excitement about "hope and change" in Washington had energized the masses. If the government had just shrugged, then consumer confidence would probably have plummeted. At that time government stimulus provided a psychological benefit, which almost certainly had a positive effect on consumer confidence. Even if it didn't boost confidence dramatically at the time, it likely prevented it from falling farther.
Now fast-forward to September 2011: will consumer confidence benefit if another stimulus bill is passed? This question matters a lot, because consumer confidence remains the biggest obstacle to more jobs. Firms are overwhelmingly complaining that a lack of demand is causing their slow hiring. Any other problems they face are secondary. For example, if a firm doesn't foresee consumers wanting more of its products in the near- to medium-term, then a government incentive for hiring will be ignored.
Americans' Shifting View of Government
If you've been paying attention to politics lately, then you know a huge shift has taken place in Washington to prioritize deficit reduction. This shift was caused, in part, by Americans' understanding that the federal government's finances are on an unsustainable path. Americans viewed the problem as so serious that just 22% wanted Congress to vote in favor of raising the debt ceiling when asked in July, according to a Gallup poll.
Of course, the debt ceiling is a complicated issue, so some polling more specific to how another stimulus might affect sentiment would be helpful here. The best polling I could find on how Americans view the government's efforts to fix the broken economy comes from the Washington Post. Let's start with how people felt about the 2009 stimulus, just as it was passed. Here are the results to a poll that asked," How confident are you that this economic stimulus plan will make the current economic downturn less severe than it would be otherwise?"
As you can see, a majority -- 58% -- were at least fairly confident that the stimulus would help. We can conclude that the government having passed it should have boosted sentiment.
I haven't found a recent poll that asks Americans how they feel about additional stimulus now. But the Washington Post conducted another poll asking a somewhat related question that can help serve as a proxy. It asked respondents, "In general, when the government in Washington decides to solve economic problems, how much confidence do you have that the problem actually will be solved?" They asked the question in August and last October. Here are the results:
You can see that Americans' belief that the government can help has been steadily weakening. Here's a bar chart that aggregates the three polls (which, admittedly, isn't perfect, because the polls aren't asking precisely the same things -- but it's the best I've got):