Do We Want More or Less Regulation of Business? It All Depends on What Is Being Regulated

NEWYORK,N.Y. – June 10, 2010 – It is common to hear corporate executives and business leaders complain about excessive regulation, but what does the public think? 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.

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

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

These are some of the findings of a Harris Poll® survey of 2,503 U.S. adults surveyed online between May 10 and 17, 2010.

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

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%), executive compensation (57%), pharmaceutical safety (61%), banks and financial services (56%), air and water pollution (52%), consumer product safety (56%), and advertising claims (56%).

Attitudes of Tea Party and members

This Harris Poll also looked at attitudes toward the regulation of business among those who describe themselves as Tea Party supporters (38% of adults) and, among supporters, those who describe themselves as Tea Party members (10% 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).

Self-styled Tea Party members are more strongly opposed to business regulation. A 48% to 21% 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%), executive pay and bonuses (52%), pharmaceutical safety (59%), consumer product safety (54%), and advertising claims (61%).

So what?

Politicians, business leaders and trade associations often attack government regulation. They may be surprised to learn from this Harris Poll the regulation of business enjoys much public support. Not only does a 2-to-1 plurality of all adults favor more strict regulation; majorities, or substantial pluralities, favor stricter regulation of twelve of the thirteen items listed. The one exception, and it is an important one politically, is that a 3-to-1 plurality (45% to 14%) favors less strict regulation of small business.

 

TABLE 1

GENERAL BUSINESS REGULATION

Now turning to a different topic, in general, do you think that there should be more strict or less strict regulation of business?

Base: All adults

 

Total Political Party Tea Party
Rep. Dem. Ind. Supporter Member
% % % % % %
Less strict 19 37 5 21 38 48
More strict 40 23 58 35 24 21
Neither more nor less strict 27 29 23 29 31 25
Not at all sure 14 11 13 15 7 6

Note: Percentages may not add up exactly to 100 percent due to rounding.

38% of public describe themselves as Tea Party supporters while 10% say they are Tea Party members.

 

TABLE 2

REGULATION BY INDUSTRY

Please say for each of the following if you think there should be more strict or less strict regulation:

Base: All adults

 

Less strict More strict Neither more nor less strict Not at all sure
% % % %
Small business 45 14 33 8
Prices 19 40 33 8
Profits 17 41 32 10
Big business 11 64 19 6
Executive pay and bonuses 10 70 14 6
Banks and financial services 9 69 17 6
Environmental safety 7 66 22 5
Air and water pollution 6 68 21 5
Advertising claims 6 65 23 7
Health and safety in the workplace 6 54 36 5
Consumer product safety 4 67 24 5
The safety of pharmaceuticals 3 70 22 5
Food safety 2 73 20 4

 

Note: Percentages may not add up exactly to 100 percent due to rounding

 

TABLE 3

REGULATION BY INDUSTRY – LESS STRICT

Please say for each of the following if you think there should be more strict or less strict regulation:

Percent of those who say less strict

Base: All adults

 

Total Political Party Tea Party
Rep. Dem. Ind. Supporter Member
% % % % % %
Small business 45 56 36 50 60 60
Prices 19 28 11 23 29 32
Profits 17 30 7 19 32 37
Big business 11 23 4 10 22 27
Executive pay and bonuses 10 18 3 10 18 20
Banks and financial services 9 16 4 9 16 24
Environmental safety 7 17 1 7 16 21
Air and water pollution 6 14 1 7 14 19
Advertising claims 6 10 4 5 8 13
Health and safety in the workplace 6 10 3 5 9 11
Consumer product safety 4 9 1 4 9 13
The safety of pharmaceuticals 3 5 2 4 6 8
Food safety 2 4 1 3 5 11

 

Note: Percentages may not add up exactly to 100 percent due to rounding

 

TABLE 4

REGULATION BY INDUSTRY – MORE STRICT

Please say for each of the following if you think there should be more strict or less strict regulation:

Percent of those who say more strict

Base: All adults

 

Total Political Party Tea Party
Rep. Dem. Ind. Supporter Member
% % % % % %
Food safety 73 64 82 71 65 61
Executive pay and bonuses 70 57 83 69 58 52
The safety of pharmaceuticals 70 61 80 66 62 59
Banks and financial services 69 56 82 67 57 47
Air and water pollution 68 52 84 64 51 46
Consumer product safety 67 56 80 63 58 54
Environmental safety 66 47 85 60 48 44
Advertising claims 65 56 71 67 60 61
Big business 64 47 82 59 47 40
Health and safety in the workplace 54 46 66 48 44 40
Profits 41 28 53 37 30 26
Prices 40 31 48 37 32 34
Small business 14 9 20 9 10 13

 

Note: Percentages may not add up exactly to 100 percent due to rounding

 

Methodology

This Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States between May 10 and 17, 2010 among 2,503 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. Where appropriate, these data were also weighted to reflect the composition of the adult online 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® #76, June 10, 2010

By Humphrey Taylor, Chairman, The Harris Poll

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