Poll: Auto bailouts unpopular with 51 percent of Americans

by Keith Laing, The Hill Newspaper
2/23/12

A new poll shows Democrats and Republicans are sharply divided on the bailout of the U.S. auto industry, which has emerged as a central issue in the upcoming primary in Michigan.

The latest survey from Gallup showed 51 percent of 1,040 respondents said they disapproved of the assistance that was given to General Motors and Chrysler in 2008 and 2009 by the federal government. Among Democrats, 63 percent said they supported the auto bailouts, while just 25 percent of Republicans said they were in favor of the government loans.

Under both presidents Bush and Obama, the federal government gave Chrysler and GM more than $80 billion during the economic panic that began in the final stages of then-Illinois Sen. Barack Obama’s successful run for the presidency in 2008.

Although the bailouts began under Bush, Obama has received strong criticism for his handling of the issue from many Republicans.

His reelection campaign has countered by touting the turnaround of GM and Chrysler after they received the bailout, arguing that the move is paying off as the companies begin to hire new workers. Obama’s campaign released a new commercial Thursday it said was airing in Michigan that referenced a 2008 op-ed arguing against the bailouts written by Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

Democrats have long contended that the opposition to the bailouts are a weakness for all Republicans, but that Romney is especially vulnerable on the issue because his article was titled “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt.”

Romney has argued that he was in favor of a “managed bankruptcy” for the auto companies, and the entire field of GOP candidates attacked the auto bailouts in a debate Wednesday night in Arizona.

“My view is you have to have industries that are in trouble go through bankruptcy,” Romney said in the debate.

“What you had was an unprecedented violation of U.S. bankruptcy law on behalf of the Obama administration to pay off the [United Auto Workers],” former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) added.

The Gallup poll showed the bailouts were most popular by region in the Midwest, where 46 percent approved of the assistance that was provided to the U.S. auto companies. The lowest region of support for the bailouts was the West, where only 42 percent of respondents in the Gallup poll said the auto bailouts were a good idea.

A separate recent poll of Michigan voters showed the bailouts were much more popular there than the Gallup polled showed Thursday they were nationally. The latest survey from NBC/Marist showed 63 percent of registered Michigan voters and 42 percent of likely voters in the state supported the federal government’s decision to assist General Motors and Chrysler.

In the Michigan poll, 58 percent of registered voters gave Obama a good or great deal of credit for the turnaround of the U.S. auto industry, compared to 37 percent who said he deserved not very much or no credit at all.

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