Americans Crave Wall Street Oversight
March 23, 2010
By: John McCormick and Alison Vekshin
Americans are leery about creating a new federal agency to make consumer-protection rules for mortgages and credit cards and would prefer to enhance the existing powers of banking regulators.
Most people interviewed in the Bloomberg National Poll say they don’t like Wall Street, banks or insurance companies and favor letting the government punish bankers who helped cause the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.
Almost seven out of 10 people surveyed support using current bank regulators for consumer protection, backing positions held by the financial industry and Republicans over President Barack Obama’s proposal to establish an independent agency.
The poll’s findings come as the White House and congressional Democrats pivot to focus more election-year attention on an unpopular political target — banks and Wall Street — following this week’s victory on health-care legislation.
“Let’s not paint all of Wall Street with the same brush, but there are those who really did tremendous harm to our economy,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters. “So now we will have a bill because we can’t ever let this happen again to the American people.”
As the country struggles with a 9.7 percent unemployment rate while financial stocks surge, 57 percent of Americans have a mostly unfavorable or very unfavorable view of Wall Street, versus fewer than one-quarter who have a favorable opinion. Banks are viewed badly by 54 percent of poll respondents, and 60 percent have a negative opinion of insurance companies.
Disdain for Executives
The poll also shows most Americans don’t like the nation’s top corporate bosses. Almost two-thirds say they have an unfavorable opinion of business executives, a rating that rivals the public’s disdain for Congress, which was viewed with disfavor by 67 percent of respondents.
The poll of 1,002 U.S. adults was conducted March 19-22 by Selzer & Co. of Des Moines, Iowa. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.
Low esteem for financial firms was reflected in resentment of big paychecks on Wall Street.
Fifty-six percent of those polled say they would support government action to limit compensation of those who helped cause the financial crisis, or to ban those people from working in the banking industry.
“The amount of money that people on Wall Street make seems to be really out of bounds,” said Laure Sinclair, 52, a part- time accountant who lives in Dallas. “But I don’t know that the government can regulate that because we want to be a capitalist society.”