August 17, 2009 -- WASHINGTON — Six months after President Obama launched a $787 billion plan to right the nation's economy, a majority of Americans think the avalanche of new federal aid has cost too much and done too little to end the recession.
A USA TODAY/Gallup Poll found 57% of adults say the stimulus package is having no impact on the economy or making it worse. Even more —60% — doubt that the stimulus plan will help the economy in the years ahead, and only 18% say it has done anything to help improve their personal situation.
That skepticism underscores the challenge Obama faces in trying to convince the public that the stimulus has helped turn the economy around. It also could complicate the administration's plans to overhaul the nation's health care system.
"This is a wake-up call for the administration." says House Minority Whip Eric Cantor, R-Va. "People see the stimulus hasn't worked, and now you want to lay on over $1 trillion in a health care plan."
The administration declined to comment on the poll results.
The stimulus package contains $288 billion for tax cuts and $499 billion in new spending, much of it meant to pay for unemployment and other social services. The $1 billion "cash for clunkers" program was not part of the bill, although its $2 billion expansion comes from stimulus funds.
The government has allocated more than $200 billion in aid. Since the plan began, however, the recession has left an additional 2.2 million Americans without jobs, according to Labor Department surveys.
Economists generally say the recession would have been worse without the stimulus, though they disagree widely on how much it has helped.
Has the Stimulus Helped?
"The economy was like a huge pothole we had to fill, and what we did was throw a little gravel in the bottom. You don't fill the hole, not even close. But you make it better," says University of Oregon economist Tim Duy. "Many people don't see the effects so they assume it's not working."
The poll Aug. 6-9 of 1,010 adults has a margin of error of +/–4% for the full sample. In a question asked of a subsample, 51% of Americans say the government should have spent less on the stimulus; 31% say the amount was "about right." Also, almost half in the full sample say they are "very worried" that stimulus money is being wasted.
For the full poll, click HERE.