Large Majorities of Americans Believe Top Managers Make More Than They Deserve

    NEW YORK , N.Y. – November 11, 2011 – As the Occupy Wall Street protests continue and move across the country, anger at corporate America seems to be growing. Seven in ten Americans (69%) believe most top company managers make more than they deserve in salaries and all other benefits, three in ten (29%) say they make about what they deserve and 2% believe they make less than they deserve. Not surprisingly, there is a partisan difference as three-quarter of Democrats (76%) and seven in ten Independents (71%) believe these top managers make more than they deserve compared to 59% of Republicans.

    These are some of the results of The Harris Poll of 2,115 adults surveyed online between October 25 and 27, 2011.

    It’s not just the fact that company leaders are paid more, it’s who the money is coming at the expense of that seems to be a concern. Four in five Americans (80%) agree that top company managers have become rich at the expense of ordinary workers, with almost half (47%) strongly agreeing. Again there is a partisan divide as nine in ten Democrats (89%) agree compared to seven in ten Republicans (69%).

    And there is a sense of anger as well. Among those who believe top company managers have become rich at the expense of ordinary workers, over three-quarters (77%) are angry that this has happened, with 34% very angry. Less than one in five (18%) are not very angry and only 5% are not at all angry.

    There is also a distribution of rewards issue as two-thirds of Americans (65%) believe rewards in the American workplace are distributed less fairly than five years ago while one-third (32%) say rewards are distributed just as fairly and 3% say more fairly. Interestingly, in 2002 two-thirds of Americans (66%) also believed rewards in the American workplace are distributed less fairly than they were five years previously. There is, yet again, a partisan difference on distribution of rewards in the workplace. Three-quarters of Democrats (74%) and two-thirds of Independents (67%) say these rewards are distributed less fairly compared to half of Republicans (51%) who say the same.

    Much of this anger is due to the fact that Americans are not happy financially. Compared to five years ago, two in five Americans are worse off financially (40%), two in five are financially about the same and less than one in five (18%) are better off. Here there is no real partisan difference as two in five Republicans (42%), Democrats (38%) and Independents (40%) all say they are worse off financially than they were five years ago.

    So What?

    The protests and demonstrations will continue, most likely until the economy turns around and the job market rebounds. The anger that is felt is palpable and this is one way that some Americans are expressing their frustration at corporate America. As the frustration and anger grows, it will be interesting to see if other protests and movements are seen throughout the country.

     

    TABLE 1

    PAYING TOP MANAGERS

    Do you think that most top company managers are paid (in salaries and all other benefits)…?

    Base: All adults

     

    2002

    2011

    Political Party

    Rep.

    Dem.

    Ind.

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    More than they deserve

    87

    69

    59

    76

    71

    About what they deserve

    12

    29

    39

    21

    28

    Less than they deserve

    1

    2

    2

    3

    2

    Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding

     

    TABLE 2

    MANAGERS RICH AT EXPENSE OF WORKERS

    How much do you agree or disagree with the following statement – Top company managers have become rich at the expense of ordinary workers?

    Base: All adults

     

    2002

    2011

    Political Party

    Rep.

    Dem.

    Ind.

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    AGREE (NET)

    87

    80

    69

    89

    81

    Strongly agree

    58

    47

    34

    54

    49

    Somewhat agree

    29

    34

    35

    35

    32

    DISAGREE (NET)

    13

    20

    31

    11

    19

    Somewhat disagree

    9

    12

    19

    6

    12

    Strongly disagree

    5

    7

    12

    5

    7

    Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding

     

    TABLE 3

    ANGRY AT TOP MANAGERS

    How angry are you that top managers have become rich at the expense of ordinary workers?

    Base: Believe top managers have become rich at expense of ordinary workers

     

    2002

    2011

    Political Party

    Rep.

    Dem.

    Ind.

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    ANGRY (NET)

    85

    77

    69

    81

    77

    Very angry

    46

    34

    23

    37

    37

    Somewhat angry

    39

    42

    46

    43

    39

    NOT ANGRY (NET)

    15

    23

    31

    19

    23

    Not very angry

    13

    18

    25

    15

    18

    Not at all angry

    2

    5

    6

    4

    5

    Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding

     

    TABLE 4

    DISTRIBUTING REWARDS

    Do you think rewards in the American workplace are distributed more fairly then, less fairly than or just as fairly as five years ago?

    Base: All adults

     

    2002

    2011

    Political Party

    Rep.

    Dem.

    Ind.

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    More fairly

    7

    3

    4

    4

    1

    Just as fairly

    27

    32

    45

    22

    32

    Less fairly

    66

    65

    51

    74

    67

    Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding

     

    TABLE 5

    FINANCIAL COMPARISON TO 5 YEARS AGO

    Thinking about your financial situation, are you better off then, worse off then or about the same as you were five years ago?

    Base: All adults

     

    2002

    2011

    Political Party

    Rep.

    Dem.

    Ind.

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Better off

    34

    18

    18

    20

    18

    About the same

    29

    42

    40

    42

    42

    Worse off

    37

    40

    42

    38

    40

    Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding

     

    Methodology

    This Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States between October 25 and 27, 2011 among 2,115 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.

    All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, Harris Interactive avoids the words margin of error as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

    Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Interactive surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in the Harris Interactive panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

    These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

    The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of Harris Interactive.

    The Harris Poll® #117, November 11, 2011

    By Regina A. Corso, SVP, Harris Poll, Public Relations and Youth Research