Bi-Weekly Public Opinion Roundup

The sheer amount of perseverance shown by New Orleans residents in the face of disasters – first Hurricane Katrina, then the great economic recession, and now the Gulf of Mexico’s Deep Water Horizon oil spill – demonstrates how unique and precious this city is to the greater United States.  No other US city has known such repeated devastation, or has demonstrated such noble resistance to defeat, such an immense capacity to endure.  Although the city and its residents have not been broken by the continued assaults, many are still picking up the pieces.  

In the midst of recovery, NOLA residents are hopeful but scars from the hurricane are still visible, according to a new survey by Kaiser Family Foundation, “New Orleans Five Years After the Storm.”  Read more in the August Public Opinion Monthly.

Mixed Numbers on Unemployment

“We are all in it together” was the sentiment portrayed in last week’s opinion polls on the extension of the unemployment benefits. The passing of the bill last week Tuesday was a decision supported by the majority of Americans across the board, regardless of income, race or political orientation.

• According to the CBS News poll, 52% of respondents said Congress should extend unemployment benefits for people currently out of work, even if it meant increasing the budget deficit.
• According to an ABC News/Washington Post poll 62 percent of respondents said Congress should approve another extension.

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People Desire Action on Immigration

Some opinions that have been overlooked by the media in the last couple of weeks:

• According to an AP/Gfk poll (PDF), 49% of Americans believe that police crackdowns on undocumented or illegal immigrants unfairly target Hispanics

•The same poll found that 79% of Americans believe that it is somewhat, very or extremely likely that police in Arizona will wind up stopping and questioning Hispanics who are U.S. citizens or legal immigrants as they try to enforce this law and 65% considers this a  serious problem

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What Americans Want

Americans are known, for better of for worse, for their strong support of “capitalism” and hesitancy towards “socialism.” A recent poll by Pew Research Center confirmed this notion, although perhaps not with the intensity one would expect. When asked what their first reaction to the word “socialism” was, 59% gave a negative response and only 29% responded positively. Their reaction to the word capitalism was exactly the opposite, 52% gave a positive response, and 37% responded negatively.

How does this translate into what Americans want from the government now? Another poll by Pew Research Center asked how much a certain solution, such as cutting taxes or additional government spending, would help to improve the current job situation. Additional spending on roads, bridges, and other public works projects scored the highest with 37% of respondents agreeing that it would “help a lot.” On the flip side, 29% asserted that cutting personal income taxes would “not help at all.” This seems rather contradictory to what capitalism would dictate to do in an economic recovery.

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A Representative Sample of the People Has Spoken

While it would be unwise for any politician to govern by focus group, a recent New York Times/CBS News poll offers some support and some clear suggestions for future action for the White House.  The poll, which was conducted in early February 2010, had 1,084 respondents – certainly a small group to be determining policy for 308 million Americans – but the results do resonate. 

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