Looks like Obama did a decent job convincing folks that we needed to rebuild our power stations and highways and bridges and schools. Because as pollster Frank Luntz found, the support appears to be overwhelming.
Last month, I conducted a national survey of 800 registered voters on their attitudes toward infrastructure investment. It was commissioned by Building America’s Future, a bipartisan coalition of elected officials — chaired by Pennsylvania Gov. Edward G. Rendell, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg — formed to support infrastructure investment.
The survey’s findings were unlike any other issue I have polled in more than a decade. Iraq, healthcare, taxes, education — they all predictably divide and polarize Americans into political camps. Not infrastructure.
Consider this: A near unanimous 94% of Americans are concerned about our nation’s infrastructure. And this concern cuts across all regions of the country and across urban, suburban and rural communities.
What’s more…people would be okay for a tax increase to fund it?
Fully 84% of the public wants more money spent by the federal government — and 83% wants more spent by state governments — to improve America’s infrastructure. And here’s the kicker: 81% of Americans are personally prepared to pay 1% more in taxes for the cause. It’s not uncommon for people to say they’d pay more to get more, but when you ask them to respond to a specific amount, support evaporates. (That 74% of normally stingy Republicans are on board for the tax increase is, to me, the most significant finding in the survey.)
This isn’t “soft” support for infrastructure either. It stretches from Maine to Montana, from California to Connecticut. Democrats (87%) and Republicans (74%) are prepared to, in Barack Obama’s words, put skin in the game, which tells you just how wide and deep the support is.
Frankly, I’m floored by these numbers. I didn’t expect this much support. Especially for a tax increase.
One last thing…few are expecting anything to happen overnight…
But there’s more: Accountability. The poll found that Americans are far less interested in doing projects quickly than in doing them right. “Don’t screw it up” would be a more popular rallying cry than “get it done.” Washington should not mistake the message of the November election and the desire for change with an “at all cost” mentality. In the poll, 61% chose “accountability” as their first or second priority in any government investment — not the creation of jobs (34%) and not that the investment be truly national in scope (25%)
Looks like the nation might actually be in the mood for a “new era of responsibility”?
Obviously, the usual caveats apply that this is one poll (and it’s from Frank Luntz), but I can’t help but think that if Americans would be fine with a tax increase, passing a stimulus plan that doesn’t tax anybody won’t need a supermajority.
Sure, it would send a powerful post-partisan message and have the dual effect of the Democrats not owning an failed economic plan, but even if the returns aren’t immediate it doesn’t seem to really matter to most. Just so long as their local infrastructure improves, they’ll be happy. And given that all the numbers I’ve seen have suggested that infrastructure spending has the best effect on the economy, maybe Obama should seek 60 votes instead of 70. Especially if certain Republicans’ tax cutting ideology simply won’t budge.
I say that last bit not to slam the GOP, but there are already hundreds of millions of dollars of tax cuts in the stimulus plan, and Republicans are going to have to acknowledge at some point that the Dems are running the show and it’s time to try their economic ideas. Especially since such a catastrophic failure happened on the GOP’s watch.
I’m just saying…