Poll shows steep rise against new business regulations

U.S. Voters Find Too Much Regulation
By Moore Information
Portland, Oregon

Results of our recent national survey show that by nearly a two-to-one margin, American voters believe business and industry are over-regulated in this country. Further, these data reflect an upward trend in the percentage since 1991 of the electorate who say government regulation has gone too far. Yet, when it comes to the regulation of individual industries, voters are not as likely to be concerned about over-regulation. Among 12 specific industries tested, only two are perceived to suffer from “too much” regulation.

U.S. Voters Find Too Much Regulation Overall

Today, 45% of voters believe there is “too much” government regulation of business and industry, while just 27% believe there is “too little.” The remainder of voters say current regulatory levels are “about right” (20%) or have no opinion (8%).

Looking back at nearly 30 years of public data on this measurement (Gallup), we see there has been a major shift in the public’s views on this issue. As the graphic below illustrates, in the early 1980s, the majority (54%) of Americans thought business was over-regulated. Over the next decade, there was a significant decline in that sentiment and by the early 1990s, voters were just as likely to say business was regulated too little as they were to say it was regulated too much. With the exception of two time frames – one following the Enron meltdown (2002) and the other following Hurricane Katrina (2005) – a plurality of voters have said government is stretching its regulatory reach too far.

There are significant differences in attitude on this question within voter subgroups. Among the most likely to express concern about over-regulation of the business community are Republicans, men age 65 and older, and voters residing in the Mountain/Plains states. At the same time, a plurality of Democrats and voters with post-graduate education believe there is too little regulation of businesses and industries.

Regulation of Individual Industries

In addition to asking about the regulation of business and industry in general, respondents were asked about regulation of 12 specific industries. Perhaps the most interesting finding is the public’s reaction to regulation of the automobile industry – of the 12 industries tested, the automobile industry is the most likely to be seen as too highly regulated, obviously as a result of recent government actions taken in that regard.

At the same time, we found five industries in which a plurality of voters say there is too little regulation, and as a result, could be easier targets for increased regulation, should Congress get the itch. These industries include health insurance companies, food processing, oil and gas, drug companies and banking. That is not to say, however, that other industries tested are getting a “pass” from the electorate. For example, let’s look at the toy manufacturing and hospital industries. While a significant percentage of the public is satisfied with current regulatory levels on these two sectors, the scale tips more toward the need for more regulation, rather than less, among those with an opinion.

Finally, the high tech industry is least likely to be seen as having too little regulation, followed by forest products/timber companies and homebuilding.

Regulation of Business and Industry

“Is government regulation of each of the following too much, the right amount, or too little?”

Source: Moore Information, May 2009
Moore Information

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