How do Americans think the government should create jobs?

Zachary Roth

President Obama will tell the nation tonight what he thinks the federal government should do to get the economy moving again and put people to work. Unfortunately for him, a new poll suggests most Americans don't think any of the major approaches on the table are likely to succeed.

The Pew Research Center for People and the Press asked people about four potential moves the government could take to spur job growth: spending on infrastructure; corporate tax cuts; individual income tax cuts; and spending cuts to reduce the deficit.

Infrastructure spending fared best, with 36 percent of the respondents saying they thought it would help the jobs situation "a lot," and 41 percent saying it would help "a little." Corporate tax cuts came next, with 31 percent saying they would help a lot, and 39 percent saying they would help a little. Spending cuts to reduce the deficit was a close third, with 31 percent and 34 percent. And income tax cuts came last, with just 24 percent saying they would help a lot, and 36 percent saying they'd help a little.

In one sense, the results are encouraging. Pew didn't ask economists for their opinion, but based on the advice that many have been giving lately, it's likely that most experts would have ranked infrastructure spending as the most effective of the four approaches if the goal is job creation.

The results also suggest that people don't view the situation as hopeless. Although Pew headlined its writeup, "Few See Job Proposals Having Much Effect," in fact, a healthy majority thought that all four approaches might help at least a little.

There was a sharp partisan divide in the results. Forty-seven percent of Republicans thought budget cuts would help a lot, compared to just 23 percent of Democrats who thought so. And 48 percent of Democras thought infrastructure would help a lot, compared to just 24 percent of Republicans.

The package that President Obama is set to unveil tonight is expected to focus on infrastructure spending, but it also will likely include a proposed cut to the employer payroll tax, and some deficit reduction measures to be specified next week. But how much of the package will get through Congress remains to be seen.