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Behind the Numbers
Posted at 06:00 AM ET, 01/22/2009

Accountability and the Doubt Factor

President Obama's early orders and directives to encourage openness of executive branch records won plaudits from good-government advocates, but may meet skepticism from many Americans.

A recent Washington Post-ABC News poll found majorities doubt the government will be more transparent on one of the public's top priorities: the economy. Most do not expect the economic recovery efforts to include a way for them to check up on government spending or to apply adequate controls to sidestep waste and fraud in spending stimulus money, despite Obama's promises to the contrary.

Earlier this month, Obama pledged "extraordinary steps to ensure that the investments are made wisely and managed well," and said he would "bring a long-overdue sense of responsibility and accountability to Washington," including creating a Web site through which ordinary Americans could track spending.

Obama gave the idea prominent placement in his inaugural address, saying "And those of us who manage the public's dollars will be held to account - to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day - because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government."

But just 6 percent of Americans said they feel very confident such measures will be taken, and less than half (44 percent) have even some confidence that one day they will be able to follow the money spent in the economic recovery plan congressional leaders hope to pass by mid-February.

Deep confidence in the idea is sparse: just 11 percent of Democrats and 5 percent of independents are very confident a system to track stimulus spending will be implemented, and no Republicans expressed that level of surety.

Even among those who back the stimulus spending, only 7 percent are very confident government will allow them to check up on spending. More than twice as many - 18 percent - said they were not at all confident.

Q. How confident are you that the federal government will create a way average Americans can check on how federal money in the economic recovery effort is being spent?

               ----- Confident -----   ----- Not confident -----
               NET   Very   Somewhat   NET   Not so   Not at all
All            44      6       38      56      32         24

Democrats      59     11       48      40      27         13
Independents   41      5       36      58      32         26
Republicans    28      0       28      72      38         34

Views on stimulus plan:
Support        50      7       43      50      31         18
Oppose         28      2       26      71      33         38

Confidence in Obama's economic policy:
Confident      54      8       46      45      31         14
Not confident  14      1       13      86      34         53

By Jennifer Agiesta  |  06:00 AM ET, 01/22/2009

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