By Ian Swanson - 08/17/09 02:48 PM EDT
Almost 80 percent of those polled said they are worried funds in the stimulus will be wasted, and more than half thought the stimulus had either made the economy worse or had no effect on it.
Republicans on Monday pounded away at the six-month anniversary, insisting in statements circulated to the press that the stimulus has been a bust.
Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.) charged Democrats with not meeting their promises, and referenced predictions by administration officials that unemployment would not exceed 8 percent. The 9.4 percent unemployment rate proves the stimulus package did not create the jobs that were promised, he said.
Kline also noted the new poll, saying it reflected widespread doubt about the impact of the stimulus.
Democrats fired back.
In a press release, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said the stimulus had “laid the foundation for growth and progress in every neighborhood and in every industry across the country.”
While there is still a long way to go, Pelosi said, the stimulus led to a dip in the unemployment rate in July from 9.5 to 9.4 percent. She also gave credit to the stimulus for reports suggesting the economic slowdown may be at an end.
Some believe the worst recession in the United States in decades may be coming to a close. They note that the pace of job destruction in the U.S. has slowed remarkably since the stimulus was enacted in February.
Between November 2008 and April of this year, monthly job losses averaged 645,000. Over the past three months, that number has been cut almost in half, to 331,000, according to Labor Department data.
Supporters of the stimulus say those statistics show the package is having a positive impact on the economy. Obama has promised the stimulus would create or save 3.5 million jobs.
Both political parties have huge stakes in making the case that the stimulus did or did not work.
Every Republican in the House voted against the stimulus, and only three Republicans in the Senate supported it. One of those GOP votes, Sen. Arlen Specter (Pa.) has since switched parties to become a Democrat.
The legislation is likely to be a key part of the electoral debate next year, when House members and one-third of the Senate face voters in the midterm elections. Polling suggests voters are increasingly worried about the federal deficit, projected at a record $1.8 trillion for the year, and Republicans have worked hard to cast the stimulus as wasteful Washington spending.
Democrats have worked equally hard to send out the message that the stimulus prevented an economic catastrophe and is helping the country recover.
Most of those surveyed in the USA Today/Gallup poll — 54 percent — think the country will still be in a recession a year from now. Fourteen percent think the country will be in a depression. Only 30 percent said they thought the recession would be over by then.
The poll was taken Aug. 6-9 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.