So either 57% support the mega-bailout, er, I mean “investing billions to try and keep financial institutions and markets secure” or 28% support the bailout when it is described as such. How you word those questions really does change things, doesn’t it? The Rasmussen result is interesting, since 62% of their respondents are investors. While more investors are in favor of the bailout than non-investors (36% vs. 15%), the plan is not that popular even among investors, as just as many (36%) oppose it and another 28% are unsure. Republicans are somewhat more likely to support the plan (35%) than Democrats (25%) and independents (23%), but there is very limited support for the plan in every group. When a proposed plan can barely win the support of one-quarter of the public, a member of Congress would have to be out of his mind to vote for it.
When framed as making institutions and markets secure, as Pew does, support jumps dramatically, but the Pew wording has to be distorting things. First, it describes this colossal waste of money as an investment, which it really isn’t, and loads the question with that magical word “secure,” which seems guaranteed to elicit a favorable response. If you asked instead, “Do you think it is right or wrong for the federal government to waste hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars on worthless securities that no one knows how to value to benefit financial institutions that have made colossal errors in judgement?” then I think the result would look a bit different.
Update: Bloomberg reports that the bailout is opposed 55-31 according to the latest Bloomberg/L.A. Times poll. Once again, the phrasing seems to have been a major factor:
The Bloomberg/Los Angeles Times poll asked whether “the government should use taxpayers’ dollars to rescue ailing private financial firms whose collapse could have adverse effects on the economy and market, or is it not the government’s responsibility to bail out private companies with taxpayers’ dollars?”