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The Daily Tar Heel

DETROIT (MCT) — The public is far more supportive of the auto industry bailouts than the government’s decision to bail out distressed financial giants in 2009, according to a Harris poll released Monday.

About 45 percent of those polled said the federal government’s decision to extend more than $77 billion in emergency loans and bankruptcy financing to General Motors and Chrysler in 2009 “helped” the economy, according to the online poll conducted by market research firm Harris Interactive between March 12 and 19. Harris surveyed 2,451 adults and found that about 29 percent of Americans say the auto bailouts “hurt” the economy. About 5 percent were unsure.

The bailouts have generated fierce debate in the presidential campaign. President Barack Obama has cited the auto industry’s return to profitability and hiring as proof of the bailouts’ success.
Republican contenders, led by likely nominee Mitt Romney, have criticized the bailouts.

“These findings suggest that the 2008 and 2009 bailouts may provide some useful political ammunition in the presidential and congressional election campaigns,” Harris said in a statement.

Some 23 percent of Americans say the bank bailouts helped the economy, while 48 percent said the bailouts hurt the economy and 6 percent were unsure, according to the poll.

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