Even as Republican presidential candidates soldier on in their opposition to the auto industry bailout, new polling indicates that the American public has changed its attitude about the $80 billion spent to help both Chrysler and General Motors restructure. According to The New York Times, a poll conducted in February shows the gap between those who approve of the measures and those who remain opposed has shrunk, while a different, more recent poll shows a slim majority of Americans now support the bailout. In the midst of the 2008-2009 crisis, polls suggested that three out of four people were against government intervention.

The New York Times suggests the post-bailout success of the automakers is the most likely driver of the change in attitude, citing the return to profitability of both Chrysler and GM. That success has resulted in real job creation, with some 126,500 positions in the motor vehicle manufacturing industry added, according to the report. GM has promised to spend $2 billion on factory investments this year and next, including $385 million at its Romulus, MI, engine plant pictured above.

That the actual cost of the bailout has been revised downward by more than 80 percent, to $14 billion, has likely played a part in public perception as well.

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