By Jon Cohen and Jennifer Agiesta
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Most Americans continue to oppose a government-backed rescue plan for Detroit's Big Three automakers as majorities blame the industry for its own problems and are unconvinced failure would hurt the economy, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.
Overall, 55 percent of those polled oppose the latest plan that Chrysler, Ford and General Motors executives pitched to Congress last week, on par with public opposition to earlier, pricier efforts. But with 42 percent support, the new request for up to $14 billion in emergency loans has more backers than previous proposals to secure up to $34 billion in loan guarantees.
But as with the earlier bids, those who strongly oppose the measure greatly outnumber those who are strongly supportive.
Opposition to the automaker bailout is fueled by the widespread perception that the companies themselves are responsible for their predicament, not the faltering economy. In the new poll, three-quarters of Americans said Detroit's woes are mainly the fault of its own management decisions, and a sizable majority of those who blame the front office object to government help.
Nor have Detroit's Big Three made significant progress persuading the public that bankruptcy proceedings would deepen the broader economic slowdown. Sixty percent said it would make no difference or would be good for the economy if one or more of the companies were forced to restructure under the protection of bankruptcy laws.
Democrats are among the most wary of the economic impact of failure, with 42 percent saying it would hurt the economy. They are more apt to advocate federal aid -- 52 percent support it, up from 42 percent support for previous versions of the rescue bill. But they, too, are deeply critical of company managers -- 72 percent fault Detroit's strategies, not the overall economy.
Republican opposition has grown stronger, with 69 percent now against the bailout, an increase of 12 points since chief executives from General Motors, Chrysler and Ford last appeared on Capitol Hill to plead their case. Half of all Republicans polled now strongly oppose the plan.
Overall, independents continue to lean against the plan, with 57 percent opposing it and 41 percent supporting it.
Regional differences remain sharp.
About six in 10 of those in the South and West are opposed to the bailout, while those in the Northeast and Midwest, home to much of the affected manufacturing base, are split evenly on the idea.
In many cases regional divisions appear to trump partisan sentiment. Among Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents, a 51 percent majority in the South oppose the plan, as do 49 percent of those in the West, while broad majorities of those in the Midwest (56 percent) and the Northeast (61 percent) support the loans.
Union households are no more apt than those without a union member to favor the plan, 44 percent compared with 42 percent. However, the union householders who support the plan are more likely to be strongly behind the bailout.
The poll was conducted by landline and cellphone from Dec. 11 to 14 among a random national sample of 1,003 adults. The results from the full poll have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points. Error margins for subgroups are larger.