THE POPULARITY OF THE BAILOUT (OR LACK THEREOF)…. Most of the players in the political arena seemed to realize, and openly acknowledge, that the bailout package was pretty unpopular with voters. Principals admitted that this was a bill that wouldn’t go over well at home, but argued, with varying degrees of persuasion, that it was necessary anyway.

Indeed, after the dust settled yesterday, more than a few lawmakers told reporters that they were swayed, at least in part, by constituent complaints about the legislation. Very few people were calling their representative’s office to urge him/her to vote for the bill.

But then I noticed the latest Washington Post/ABC News poll, and I’m not sure what to think of public opinion on this.

Most Americans see the current financial situation as a “crisis,” and there is overwhelming concern that the failure of the House of Representatives to pass the economic recovery package will deepen the problem, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

But the poll also revealed significant public concern with the bill Congress rejected yesterday, as few voters said the package did enough to protect “ordinary Americans,” and nearly half said it did not go far enough to shore up the nation’s economy.

As is often the case discerning public opinion, reading these results was a little confusing. The public was largely split on whether the bill has merit — 47% opposed the package, 45% supported it.

But the same poll found that nearly nine in 10 Americans said Congress’ failure to pass the measure “could lead to a more severe economic decline.”

What’s more, Isaac Chotiner noted that voters are inclined to hold Republicans responsible for the bill’s failure, but given the other results, it’s hard to know which party, if any, benefits from this perception.

So, what are we left with? A fair number of Americans think Congress should have passed a bill they’re opposed to? They “blame” Republicans for scuttling the deal, but no one knows whether that helps the GOP or hurts it?

Nate Silver has more on polling and the bailout (or “rescue“). It’s fair to say there’s deep public skepticism about the plan, but it’s far from clear exactly how Americans want policy makers to proceed.

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Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.