Large Majority of Americans Favor Tougher Regulation of Wall Street

NEWYORK – May 10, 2012 – Each year The Harris Poll asks a series of questions about Wall Street, which is defined to include the nation’s largest banks, investment banks, stockbrokers, and other financial institutions. Again, this year, there is a feeling among the American public that Wall Street has problems.

An overwhelming 82% to 15% majority of adults believe recent events have shown that Wall Street should be subject to tougher regulation. At the same time, by almost 2-to-1, a strong 62% to 34% majority believes that Wall Street is absolutely essential. One reason for this conflict is that over half of U.S. adults (55%) believe that Wall Street and what it does benefits the country while over two in five (42%) believe it harms the country.

These are some of the results of The Harris Poll of 1,016 adults surveyed by telephone between April 10 and 17, 2012 by Harris Interactive.

Some of the other main findings of this year’s poll are:

  • Almost four in five Americans (78%) believe that Wall Street firms should only pay bonuses when they are doing well and making good profits;
  • Seven in ten U.S. adults (70%) believe most people on Wall Street would be willing to break the law if they believed they could make a lot of money and get away with it;
  • Just over two-thirds of adults (68%) do not believe that people on Wall Street are as honest and moral as other people;
  • Two-thirds (67%) of U.S. adults do not believe that what is good for Wall Street is good for the country; and
  • Almost two-thirds (64%) do not believe most successful people on Wall Street deserve to make the kind of money they earn.

There is no sign of any recovery in Wall Street’s reputation. Most of these numbers are little changed from last year, and are substantially worse than they were before the financial crisis of 2008.

So what?

Given the recently released findings on the reputations of financial services firms in the 2012 Harris Poll Reputation Quotient® (RQ®) Study, these results are not surprising. What is new and interesting here though, says Robert Fronk, EVP Reputation Management at Harris Interactive, is that, A majority of the public is clearly able to separate the value that Wall Street can bring from the lack of values that they say exist in its ranks. This distinction gives a ray of hope and a high level roadmap to those looking to rebuild the image of Wall Street.

 

 

 

TABLE 1

OVERALL IMPACT OF WALL STREET ON THE NATION

TRENDS 1996 TO 2010

The words WALL STREET are often used to describe the nation’s largest banks, investment banks, stockbrokers and other financial institutions. Overall, would you say that Wall Street and what it does, benefits the country a lot, benefits it somewhat, harms it somewhat or harms the country a lot?

Base: All adults

 

1996

1997

1998

1999

2000

2002

2003

2006

2009

2010

2011

2012

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Benefits (Net)

70

80

73

72

69

66

68

73

54

56

55

55

Benefits country a lot

19

27

22

24

22

23

24

22

17

11

11

8

Benefits country somewhat

51

53

51

48

47

43

44

51

37

44

43

47

Harms (Net)

22

13

19

15

16

24

16

23

39

38

39

42

Harms country somewhat

16

10

16

11

13

17

11

17

25

24

23

26

Harms country a lot

6

3

3

3

3

7

5

6

14

14

16

16

Neither benefits nor harms (vol.)

1

2

2

3

2

3

2

1

2

2

2

 

Not sure/Refused

7

5

6

10

13

7

13

4

5

4

4

2

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


 

TABLE 2

AGREEMENT/DISAGREEMENT WITH SEVEN STATEMENTS ABOUT WALL STREET – TRENDS

Please say if you tend to agree or disagree with the following statements about Wall Street.

Base: All adults

 

 

 

Agree

Disagree

Not Sure/

Refused

Recent events have shown that Wall Street should be subject to tougher regulations

2012

2011

%

%

82

83

15

14

3

3

2010

2009

%

%

82

87

14

10

4

3

Wall Street firms should only pay bonuses when they are doing well and making good profits

2012

2011

%

%

78

75

19

21

3

3

2010

2009

%

%

75

78

21

20

4

2

Most people on Wall Street would be willing to break the law if they believed they could make a lot of money and get away with it

2012

2011

%

%

70

67

27

31

2

2

2010

2009

2006

2003

2002

2000

1999

1998

1997

1996

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

66

71

63

54

61

60

60

56

56

64

29

27

35

34

34

33

34

41

40

33

5

2

3

11

5

6

7

2

4

3

Wall Street is absolutely essential because it provides the money businesses must have for investments

2012

2011

%

%

62

62

34

34

4

4

2010

2009

2006

2003

2002

2000

1999

1998

1997

1996

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

59

62

71

62

66

72

69

73

69

69

34

32

25

24

26

21

23

24

27

25

7

5

4

13

8

8

7

3

4

6

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

 

TABLE 2 (CONT.)

AGREEMENT/DISAGREEMENT WITH SEVEN STATEMENTS ABOUT WALL STREET – TRENDS

Please say if you tend to agree or disagree with the following statements about Wall Street.

Base: All adults

Agree

Disagree

Not Sure/

Refused

Most successful people on Wall Street deserve to make the kind of money they earn

2012

2011

%

%

32

31

64

66

3

3

2010

2009

2006

2003

2002

2000

1999

1998

1997

1996

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

29

30

40

37

36

42

45

48

51

40

65

66

56

51

58

50

46

47

44

55

5

4

4

12

6

8

9

4

4

5

In general, what is good for Wall Street is good for the country

2012

2011

%

%

30

31

67

64

3

5

2010

2009

2006

2003

2002

2000

1999

1998

1997

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

33

37

37

39

40

41

42

43

39

61

59

60

47

55

52

51

53

57

6

3

3

13

6

8

6

4

4

In general, people on Wall Street are as honest and moral as other people

2012

2011

%

%

28

26

68

70

4

4

2010

2009

2006

2003

2002

2000

1999

1998

1997

1996

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

31

26

41

35

35

35

39

49

51

43

64

70

54

50

57

56

51

47

45

52

5

4

4

15

8

9

10

5

4

5

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

 

 

Methodology

This Harris Poll® was conducted by telephone within the United States between April 10 and 17, 2012 among 1,016 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region, number of adults in the household, number of phone lines in the household were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population.

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.

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

J41437

Q755, 760

The Harris Poll ® #42, May 10, 2012

By Regina A. Corso, SVP, Harris Poll Insights, Harris Interactive

About Harris Interactive

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