Do Americans agree with Obama's economic concerns?

U.S. President Barack Obama tours the Copper Mountain Solar Project with Sempra US Gas & Power CEO Jeffrey Martin, Sempra US Gas & Power's John Sowers and Kevin Gillespie on March 21, 2012 in Boulder City, Nevada.

Stacey Vanek Smith: We just heard President Obama tell Kai he thinks Americans want more than just "on your own" economics.

That brings us to our weekly Attitude Check -- a partnership with Gallup.

Frank Newport, Gallup's editor-in-chief, joins us now to talk about what Americans think about the economy. Good morning, Frank.

Frank Newport: Good morning, Stacey.

Smith: Who do Americans blame for our economic situation -- President Obama, President Bush, Congress -- who's to blame?

Newport: Well, it's to some degree all of the above. We and other people have asked these questions, and actually, the last time we asked it, people were still blaming the Bush administration more than they were the Obama administration. So Obama gets a pass on that -- people do still think, to some degree, that we are living in the residual of what happened in the previous administration.

Smith: Do Americans think that Obama has restricted economic freedom?

Newport: Well, you know, that's a very, very interesting -- and sometimes paradoxical -- part of American public opinion. All of what the president talks about has some resonance with the American public. They do think that the government has a role to play, and there should be regulations.

They, on the other hand, are concerned about freedom. In fact, we have a record high number of Americans who say that the government regulates business and industry too much as an example. And over half of Americans say government has too much power and does too much that should be left to business and industry.

So when you listen to what Obama says, a lot of the specifics do make sense to Americans in isolation. But taken as a broad whole, what the data shows, Americans are very concerned in a general sense about too much government. And that's that little middle ground that he and the Republicans are trying to get to -- what's the balance between government doing too much and not doing enough.

Smith: Speaking of that, do we have a sense of how Americans feel about business and environmental regulations?

Newport: We do, we just asked that question. And Americans say it's more important to have economic growth, for example, than it is to be overly concerned about the environment. That's flipped when the economy's doing well, people say oh, the environment's paramount; but now, this year, and also last year, Americans are saying economic growth is more important than being concerned about the environment.

Smith: Frank Newport, Gallup's editor-in-chief. Frank, thank you.

Newport: Good to be with you.

About the author

Frank Newport, Ph.D., is the editor-in-chief at Gallup and appears regularly on Marketplace.

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