Ever since the auto bailout began, the majority of Americans have opposed the government’s efforts to fund and restructure the auto industry. As recently as July, polls showed that 56 percent opposed the bailout, according to the Detroit News. But now a new Rasmussen poll shows that opposition has fallen to 46 percent with 38 percent in favor and 16 percent unopposed, the first time a poll has found less than 50 percent opposition to the auto bailouts. 70 percent of Americans now believe GM will still be in business a decade from now, and 50 percent believe the government is either “somewhat” or “very” likely to be repaid by GM and Chrysler. Of course, the Treasury still believes that it will lose some $17b on the auto bailout, but then you don’t exactly hear that trumpeted by the White House.
What you do hear about the auto bailout is an increasing tone of triumphalism, an endless repetition of the phrase “the critics were wrong.” And yes, the auto bailout has certainly progressed better than some of its harshest critics here a TTAC might have imagined. But if, over a year after the bailout ended, some 46 percent of America still opposes the government’s intervention in GM and Chrysler, marketers for both of these companies (not to mention the politicians) should sit up and take notice. After all, the “success” purchased with that $80b still depends on the goodwill of the American people, and if the bailout-haters never drop their grudge, GM and Chrysler’s already-overblown “success” won’t last. And for all the “Mission Accomplished” moments since GM and Chrysler emerged from bankruptcy, we still haven’t heard a compelling pitch to the resilient anti-bailout plurality.