Most voters support government taking a bigger role in the economy during the coronavirus crisis, NBC/WSJ poll says

Key Points
  • More than 60% of voters said they approve of the federal government taking a bigger role in the economy during the coronavirus economic collapse, according to an NBC News/WSJ poll. 
  • Congress has passed a $2 trillion rescue plan and the Federal Reserve has taken emergency actions as the U.S. economy goes into freefall. 
  • Even so, a plurality of voters worry more about the government disbursing too much money to respond to the crisis than it not spending enough.
People who lost their jobs wait in line to file for unemployment following an outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at an Arkansas Workforce Center in Fayetteville, Arkansas, April 6, 2020.
Nick Oxford | Reuters

The federal government has flexed its muscle to blunt the economic damage from the coronavirus pandemic, and most voters back the intervention. 

As Congress looks to build on the largest emergency spending plan in U.S. history, 63% of registered voters said they approve of the expansion of the government's role in the economy in response to the outbreak, an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll released Sunday found. Another 30% of respondents said they disapproved. 

The survey reflects comfort with federal influence on the economy during crises usually unseen during calmer periods, when more voters sound the alarm about budget deficits or overreach. Even so, those concerns have not fully evaporated during the current economic freefall. 

Nearly half, or 48% of respondents, said they worry more about the government spending too much money to buoy the economy and driving up budget deficits, the poll found. Another 40% of voters said they were concerned the U.S. would disburse too little money and extend an economic recession. 

As state and local governments shut down businesses and schools to slow the deadly disease's rapid spread, U.S. economic growth is expected to crumble. At least 22 million people have applied for unemployment insurance over the latest four weeks as lost jobs and wages leave Americans scrambling to cover bills.

Here are the main steps the federal government has taken to respond to the economic crisis so far: 

As state governments keep restrictions in place to slow Covid-19's spread, some conservatives have started to urge them to lift isolation measures in order to revive the economy. Protests over stay-at-home measures, which President Donald Trump helped to incite, hit states such as Michigan and Minnesota this week.

Still, 58% of respondents to the NBC/WSJ survey said they worry more that the government will move too quickly in loosening restrictions and allow coronavirus to proliferate. About a third, or 32%, said they are more concerned the government will take too long to relax rules and cause more job losses. 

Confidence in the U.S. economy continues to erode during the crisis. About a fifth of voters, or 22%, described it as excellent or good. Another 76% called it fair or poor. 

The NBC/WSJ poll, taken April 13-15, surveyed 900 registered voters nationwide and has a margin of error of plus-or-minus 3.3 percentage points. 

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