Maybe the stimulus is popular after all

Republicans gleefully pointed to polls showing Americans opposed the package, but other surveys have consistently shown that the bill gave Democrats a boost.

By Alex Koppelman

Published February 17, 2009 5:30PM (EST)

It seems like the distant past now, but only two weeks ago Republicans were crowing about opinion polls that showed the public was on their side of the stimulus debate. You don't hear much about the polls these days, but congressional Republicans are still celebrating the unity they showed in opposition to the bill, treating it as the first step out of the wilderness. Of course, it's also possible that the GOP is just digging a deeper hole for itself.

A new Gallup poll provides more evidence to suggest that it's Democrats, not Republicans, who've benefited from the debate over the stimulus. In a survey conducted last week, the pollster found that Congressional approval has jumped by 12 points over the past month, going from 19 percent to  31 percent. Obviously, this is still low, but in context it's pretty impressive -- Congress is almost never popular, and this is the highest level of approval that Gallup has found in almost two years.

As Gallup points out, the increase is mostly due to Democrats, who are increasingly happy with the job their party is doing in the majority. In early January, only 18 percent of Democrats said they approved of the job Congress was doing; now, that number is 43 percent. But independents, too, now see Congress in a more favorable light; the approval number went up 12 points among that group last month. Republicans, however, are less happy with Congress; the Legislative Branch's rating declined four percentage points among self-identified GOP'ers.

It's still far too early to judge the stimulus a political success; the real test will be the test of time. For now, though, the GOP should probably postpone those victory celebrations.

Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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