PUBLIC BACKS ADDITIONAL STIMULUS…. As 2009 got underway, Democrats had two unfortunate messes Republicans left behind to clean up: an economy in free fall and a massive budget deficit. Dems couldn’t address both at the same time — tackling one problem necessarily meant making the other problem worse.

Republicans said the focus should be on fixing their huge budget shortfall; Democrats fortunately ignored them and chose to emphasize economic growth and job creation. Their efforts didn’t reduce the deficit — they weren’t supposed to — but they did help turn the economy around.

The success of the recovery effort has, alas, not translated into a robust economy. The question, then, is what to do now. As we saw yesterday, Senate Republicans want to slam on the brakes and stop trying to improve the economy. The public prefers a different approach.

Among four pieces of legislation Congress could consider this year, Americans are most supportive of authorizing more economic stimulus spending. Specifically, according to a June 11-13 USA Today/Gallup poll, 60% of Americans say they would favor “additional government spending to create jobs and stimulate the economy.” […]

Stimulus spending emerges as the most widely favored proposal of the four, overall, because of support that is particularly high from Democrats (83%) and relatively high from Republicans (38%) compared with the other Democrat-favored items.

It’s worth emphasizing the fact that public attitudes seem to have shifted over the last year or so. Last summer, it was still common to see polls showing Americans emphasizing the deficit over economic growth. Now, the public’s support for additional stimulus is surprisingly strong.

For that matter, there’s additional data that shows Americans are far more concerned with the economy than the deficit.

So, members of Congress have a choice:

1) Side with Republicans, who got us into this mess in the first place, and stop trying to improve the economy; or

2) Side with the public, who’ll be voting in November, and invest in job growth.

That this is even a debate is astounding to me. That the first option is winning right now is just stunning.

Our ideas can save democracy... But we need your help! Donate Now!

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.