Americans Want Bigger Stimulus Checks — Even If GOP Isn't On Board

"More money" may be an easier message to sell than "bipartisanship," a new HuffPost/YouGov survey on coronavirus relief finds.
President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris meet with 10 Republican senators to discuss coronavirus relief. In a new HuffPost/YouGov poll, Americans say they're more concerned over the government spending too little than too much.
President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris meet with 10 Republican senators to discuss coronavirus relief. In a new HuffPost/YouGov poll, Americans say they're more concerned over the government spending too little than too much.
Pool via Getty Images

Americans care more about passing new coronavirus relief than reducing the federal deficit, a new HuffPost/YouGov survey finds, and they prioritize bigger relief checks over the need for bipartisanship.

The poll offers support for President Joe Biden’s push for a big, aggressive stimulus package. He made it clear on Friday that although he wants bipartisan support for passing relief legislation, he’ll move forward even if Republicans hold up the process.

“If I have to choose between getting help right now to Americans who are hurting so badly and getting bogged down in a lengthy negotiation or compromising on a bill ... that’s an easy choice,” Biden said in remarks from the White House. “I’m going to help the American people who are hurting now.”

Americans say, 44% to 29%, that a relief plan that gives people more money but lacks Republican support would be better for the U.S. than a bipartisan one that provided less funding.

That binary, of course, isn’t necessarily the lens through which most people will ultimately decide how they feel about a relief plan. Given the existence of a sizable minority who say they’re not sure, there’s also room for opinions to change. But the results suggest that, from a messaging perspective, appeals to bipartisanship pale in comparison to the prospect of more substantial aid.

Research “is crystal clear that voters reward politicians (Democrats, at least) for spending money,” political scientist Jeffrey Lazarus wrote on Twitter. “It’s less clear, but still a pretty solid finding, that voters don’t reward for bipartisanship. This one’s a no-brainer.”

Many of the president’s supporters do generally like the idea of reaching across the aisle. In a poll last month, Biden voters said by a 20-point margin that he should compromise in order to work with Republicans, far overshooting Donald Trump voters’ enthusiasm for similar compromise on the part of the GOP.

In this instance, however, most Democrats don’t see a need to bring Republican lawmakers on board. By a more than 3-to-1 margin, 66% to 20%, they say a bigger relief plan would be better for the country than a bipartisan one. By a similar margin, they also say that’s the sort of plan their party’s politicians should work to pass.

A group of GOP senators has put forward a counterproposal to Biden’s legislation. But their bill is for much less ― $600 billion ― and would offer smaller checks to people, provide less unemployment insurance, and give no aid to state and local governments. Biden told Senate Democrats this week that he believed the GOP senators’ bill was too small.

And although there is a widespread belief in the Democratic Party that a bipartisan stimulus package is ideal, there’s also agreement that the president can’t allow negotiations to go on for months.

“We’ll listen, and there’s some wiggle room on some of this, but in the end, we need to deliver,” said Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.), who represents a district that Trump won in both 2016 and 2020. “For the proposal from our friends across the aisle to not include one penny of help for our towns all over this country, that part of it is a nonstarter.”

Americans’ desire for a new COVID-19 relief bill also outweighs their concerns about government spending. Nearly half, 47%, say it’s very important to them personally that Congress passes a stimulus, compared to 30% who say it’s very important to them that Congress reduces the budget deficit.

A 42% plurality of the public say Congress has so far spent too little money on coronavirus relief, compared to just 18% who think it has already spent too much and 16% who say it’s spent about enough. Looking ahead, 38% say they’re more concerned that Congress will spend too little, compared with 23% who worry it will go overboard on spending.

More broadly, Americans are generally supportive of the concept of government interventions ― a manifestation of a trend that predates the current pandemic. By an 11-point margin, they say the government should be doing more, not less, to solve problems. By a 22-point margin, they agree that “the government should do more to help needy Americans, even if it means going deeper into debt,” rather than feeling that “the government today can’t afford to do much more to help the needy.”

Even theoretically popular proposals can be tanked by poor messaging or an unpopular messenger. So far, however, public opinion on the negotiations similarly appears to favor the Democrats’ position.

Americans currently give Biden a net +16 approval rating for his handling of the debate over passing a relief plan (meaning they’re 16 points likelier to approve than they are to disapprove). They’re close to evenly split on congressional Democrats, giving them a net +2, and sharply negative toward congressional Republicans, who score a net -29.

One contributing factor is that Democrats are overwhelmingly positive toward Biden and their party’s legislators, while Republican approval of GOP leaders barely crosses the 50% mark. Another is the attitudes of independents with no attachment to either party, who give negative marks to everyone involved but are especially unimpressed with Republican efforts.

The HuffPost/YouGov poll consisted of 1,000 completed interviews conducted Feb. 1-3 among U.S. adults, using a sample selected from YouGov’s opt-in online panel to match the demographics and other characteristics of the adult U.S. population.

HuffPost has teamed up with YouGov to conduct daily opinion polls. You can learn more about this project and take part in YouGov’s nationally representative opinion polling. More details on the polls’ methodology are available here.

Most surveys report a margin of error that represents some but not all potential survey errors. YouGov’s reports include a model-based margin of error, which rests on a specific set of statistical assumptions about the selected sample rather than the standard methodology for random probability sampling. If these assumptions are wrong, the model-based margin of error may also be inaccurate. Click here for a more detailed explanation of the model-based margin of error.

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