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Behind the Numbers
Posted at 02:05 PM ET, 12/08/2008

Poll: Auto Bailout Wrong Way

Most Americans oppose the revised plan the Big Three pitched last week in Washington, putting the Congress and the president and the president-elect on the wrong side of public opinion on the matter, at least in the short-run.

In a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, 54 percent said they oppose the bailout request of up to 34 billion dollars in government loans; 37 percent backed the plan. Support for the plan was little changed from late November, with the percentage of those "strongly opposed" outnumbering the plan's strong proponents.

Deep partisan and regional differences also remain.

Democrats are about evenly divided on the auto company loans (42 percent support, 47 percent oppose), while sizable majorities of Republicans (57 percent) and independents (55 percent) lined up against the idea.

Support for government infusion peaks in the Midwest, home to much of the affected manufacturing base (44 percent support, 48 percent oppose), but meets stiffer opposition elsewhere - 57 percent of those in the Northeast disapprove of the funds as do 56 percent of southerners and 52 percent in the West.

And the younger consumers American automakers need to woo are less supportive of the bailout plan than their elders. Among seniors, views are evenly split (45 percent favor, 44 percent oppose), but among those under age 45 a broad majority opposes the plan (59 percent).

Despite the negative public response, electoral judgment is two years off, and other data point to the broad consequences of inaction. In a CNN poll conducted last week, 15 percent of all respondents said their families would be immediately affected if the auto companies went bankrupt. And while opposition to the federal assistance was also steep in the CNN poll, 45 percent said the plan would boost the economy, issue No. 1 in Washington, Detroit and on the proverbial Main Street.

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Q. The big three automakers in the U.S. have asked for up to $34 billion in loans from the government. Some people say it's a bailout those companies don't deserve, and that they'd be better off reorganizing under bankruptcy laws. Other people say it's necessary to protect auto workers and save a key part of the U.S. economy. On balance, do you support or oppose this plan?

SOURCE: Washington Post-ABC News poll conducted Dec. 3-7 among a random national sample of 1,003 adults. The results have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points.

By  |  02:05 PM ET, 12/08/2008

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