Poll: Tighter Regulation Of Business Is Really Quite Popular — Even With The Tea Party

Despite rhetoric from the Right, implementing stricter regulations on business is popular with the American people, a new, independent poll finds.

Even many self-styled “tea party” activists support tighter business controls in several areas.

A new Harris Poll finds that among those who favor change, many more people support stricter rather than less strict regulation of business. However, this overall view is based on different attitudes to regulation, depending on who or what is being regulated, the pollsters add.

The new opinion survey offers an interesting window into public attitudes in an election year when Republicans have been hammering the majority Democrats for promoting too much regulation. Democrats earlier this year enacting their sweeping healthcare reform law, which imposes significant new regulation on the health insurance industry.

Further, House and Senate Democrats are in the end stages of crafting the biggest overhaul of rules that govern banks and the financial sector since the Great Depression.

The Senate, too, is expected to consider new energy legislation that impose new regulations on energy producers and others.

Overall, a 40 percent plurality of the public favors more strict regulation and only 19 percent would prefer less strict regulation (with 27 percent wanting neither more nor less strict regulation and 14 percent saying they are not at all sure).

However, a 64 percent to 11 percent majority favor more strict regulation of big business while a 45 percent to 14 percent plurality favors less strict regulation of small business. The 70 percent or more of adults who favor stricter regulation of food safety, pharmaceutical safety and executive pay and bonuses compares with only 40 percent who favor more price regulation and 41 percent who want more regulation of profits.

These are some of the findings of a survey of 2,503 U.S. adults surveyed online between May 10 and 17, by Harris Interactive.

The strongest support for stricter regulation relates to food safety (73 percent), executive pay and bonuses (70 percent), the safety of pharmaceuticals (70 percent), banks and financial services (69 percent), air and water pollution (68 percent), consumer product safety (67 percent), and environmental safety (66 percent). Majorities also support more strict regulation of advertising claims (65 percent), big business (64 percent), and health and safety in the workplace (54 percent), according to Harris.

Across the board, support for regulation is much stronger among Democrats than Republicans, with independents in the middle. However, even majorities of Republicans favor more strict regulation of food safety (64 percent), executive compensation (57 percent), pharmaceutical safety (61 percent), banks and financial services (56 percent), air and water pollution (52 percent), consumer product safety (56 percent), and advertising claims (56 percent).

Harris finds just one area, an important one politically, is that a 3-to-1 plurality (45 percent to 14 percent) of Americans favors less strict regulation of small business.

Harris also looked at attitudes toward the regulation of business among those who describe themselves as “tea party supporters” (38 percent of adults) and, among supporters, those who describe themselves as “tea party members” (10 percent of all adults). The attitudes of tea party supporters are very similar to those of Republicans (not very surprising because many of them are the same people).

The so-called tea party movement has been growing in influence within the Republican Party, with such candidates as Senate hopefuls Rand Paul of Kentucky, and Sharron Angle of Nevada, closely aligned with the tea party.

Self-styled tea party “members” are more strongly opposed to business regulation. A 48 percent to 21 percent plurality (but not a majority) favors less strict regulation in general. However, majorities even of Tea Party “members” favor stricter regulation of food safety (61 percent), executive pay and bonuses (52 percent), pharmaceutical safety (59 percent), consumer product safety (54 percent), and advertising claims (61 percent).

The publisher of the news site On The Hill, Scott Nance has covered Congress and the federal government for more than a decade

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