A large majority of Americans – including a majority of both political parties – say the federal government should fund reconstruction of areas devastated by Superstorm Sandy, even if doing so drives up the deficit.
According to a new national poll of registered voters from Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind, 66 percent of voters said that the federal government should fund reconstruction, while 23 percent said that the federal government shouldn’t be spending money it doesn’t have, even for a natural disaster. Support for federal relief is higher among Democrats (77%) than Republicans, but a majority of Republicans (54%) support it as well. Only 23 percent – including 36 percent of Republicans and 13 percent of Democrats – said federal finances should take precedence.
In recent days, federal funding for reconstruction and relief in the wake of Superstorm Sandy have become caught up in the fight over the looming fiscal cliff. President Obama’s request for $60 billion in federal money to help impacted communities has been called into question, with the Conservative Club for Growth opposing federal assistance on budgetary grounds and Republicans in the House of Representatives asking for cuts to other programs to offset the spending.
“Historically, spending to rebuild after a natural disaster has had bipartisan support,” said Dan Cassino, professor of political science at Fairleigh Dickinson University and an analyst for the poll. “These results show that’s still true with the public, but it doesn’t seem to be the case in Washington.”
However, the same poll results show that Obama has very little leverage over Republicans in Congress on this and other issues. Only 48 percent of Americans approve of the job Obama is doing as President, and only 11 percent of Republicans do. In addition, only 37 percent think that the country is moving in the right direction, with half (50%) saying that it’s on the wrong track.
“The best way for a President to get things done is to show members of Congress that their constituents support the President,” said Cassino. “And these numbers are showing us that Republicans in Congress just don’t have to worry about that. It doesn’t look like ignoring the President is going to hurt them at all.”
The results also show the lingering effects of the recession on voters. While younger voters are much more likely to be Democrats than older voters, they are no more likely to say the country is on the right track. Forty-one percent of voters under 30 say that the country is on the right track, while 43 percent say that it’s on the wrong track. The figures for 30- to 45-year- old voters are almost identical (40 and 45%, respectively).
“While Democrats are motivated to say that things are going well to support the President, reality does step in,” said Cassino. “The people just starting out were hit hardest by the economic downturn, and if you can’t get a job, nothing is going to make the outlook rosy.”
The Fairleigh Dickinson University poll of 814 registered voters was conducted nationally by telephone with both landline and cell phones from Dec. 10 through 16, 2012, and has a margin of error of +/-3.4 percentage points.