Public to Conservatives: Get with the Program

Conservatives’ opposition to Obama’s spending plan is not in line with the public’s approval of broad spending plans, writes Ruy Teixeira.

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President Barack Obama’s proposal to increase spending substantially in a number of areas, such as education and health care, has drawn the wrath of conservatives, who argue such spending should be ruled out since it would increase the budget deficit too much.

But the public does not share this view. In the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, the public was asked if they supported a range of spending items, given that “it is now agreed that, because the United States is in a recession and at war, the federal government will be in a deficit for the next few years.” The top two items, increasing spending on education and providing tax cuts for middle- and low-income individuals, received 80-percent support. That was followed by increasing spending on roads, bridges, and transportation systems (74 percent), extended unemployment benefits (73 percent), and increasing spending on health care (69 percent).

chart 1

And of course, conservatives say we shouldn’t even think about health care reform, given the budget and economic situation, a view that has been echoed to some extent in the media. The public, however, sees this as a real possibility. In fact, by 55 percent to 39 percent in a new Quinnipiac University survey, they think that Obama will succeed in shepherding “major health care reform—aimed at covering almost everyone while reducing costs” through Congress this year.

chart 2

Given the public’s attitude, conservatives might want to give up their "Dr. No" attitude and try supporting Obama for a change. Otherwise, they run the risk of being out of step with some momentous and positive changes in our country. And that’s likely to make them even more unpopular than they already are.

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Ruy Teixeira

Former Senior Fellow

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