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Poll: Americans Want Main Street Businesses Regulated Less

A new Harris Poll finds that that among those who favor change, many more people support stricter rather than less strict regulation of business....
June 14, 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 that among those who favor change, many more people support stricter rather than less strict regulation of business.

 

The one exception: a plurality of the public thinks that while big businesses should be regulated more, Main Street businesses should be regulated less.

 

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 Harris Poll survey of 2,503 U.S. adults surveyed online between May 10 and 17, 2010 by Harris Interactive.

 

A Vote for Main Street

"This poll shows that people place far more trust in small businesses than in larger businesses," said PIA National President Jon D. Spalding. "It is heartening to see that the public recognizes that the regulatory burdens placed on small businesses need to be lessened. When it comes to choosing who they trust, Americans are increasingly casting their votes in favor of Main Street."

The strongest support for stricter regulation relates to food safety (73 pecent), 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).

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).

This Harris Poll 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).

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 percent), executive pay and bonuses (52 percent), pharmaceutical safety (59 percent), consumer product safety (54 percent), and advertising claims (61 percent).

Overall, the poll finds that 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 - is that a 3-to-1 plurality (45 percent to 14 percent) favors less strict regulation of small business.

"This is a resounding victory for Main Street businesses and Main Street values," said Spalding. "When times are tough, people want to do business with people in their communities who they know and trust. America's professional insurance agents have been doing business on Main Street for many decades. That's why our motto is, "Local Agents Serving Main Street America."